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Sino-UK trade set to gather momentum
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-22 09:43

Sino-British bilateral trade has been growing at a rate this year the leaders of the two nations expected.

"Bilateral trade volume between China and Britain this year is expected to be close to or match US$20 billion, the annual trade target set by the Chinese premier and the British prime minister when they met in England in May," Brian Outlaw, director for China with the China-British Business Council (CBBC), told China Daily. "This figure shows how strong the trade relationship is between the two countries."

He is also optimistic about future trade growth between the two economies, saying bilateral trade is expected to grow strongly next year, although it is hard to predict the growth rate.

According to statistics from British Customs, Britain's imports from China stood at 5.46 billion pounds (US$10.37 billion), and its exports to China totalled about 1.32 billion pounds (US$2.5 billion) in the first seven months of this year.

Outlaw said the imbalance is not a serious problem, but both sides should strive to minimize the gap.

"From the British point of view, we should export more aggressively to the Chinese market," he said.

The two economies are complementary in terms of exports. Outlaw explained China is advantaged in the production of consumer goods while Britain performs well in providing high-tech and high-value-added products and services.

Britain is ready to provide not only machinery, information and communications technology (ICT), and energy equipment but also financial services and engineering skills to China.

He suggested British enterprises should focus on what they do best.

"We are not competing with Chinese goods in price but in quality and design," he said.

The textile industry is such an example.

All quotas on textile trade between World Trade Organization (WTO) members will be eliminated by the end of this year, which has aroused great concern among textile enterprises in foreign countries as they fear a sudden influx of cheap Chinese goods.

But Outlaw sees it as a challenge rather than a threat.

"Some individual companies might be threatened but not the general industry of Britain because the country has advantages in design and quality, instead of prices," he said.

Some British enterprises still need a better understanding of China and the Chinese market, and are planning to increase their domestic presence when they succeed in this, he added.

Britain remains the largest European Union investor in China with a contracted investment last year of US$20 billion and a realized investment of US$11.5.

Outlaw predicted the figure will continue to rise next year as China continues to open its market to the world.

A huge number of world renowned British enterprises, including the DIY warehouse chain, B&Q and Tesco, the largest retailer in Britain, have set up subordinate companies or joint ventures in China and are ready to expand their businesses.

And there are still many more who are looking to invest in China to take advantage of the market's further opening, he said.

In 2005, China will open more industries to foreign investors in line with its commitments to the WTO.

British enterprises are competitive in the banking, insurance, and retail sectors which are set to open further.

On the other hand, the British Government is also welcoming Chinese investment in Britain.

"Some Chinese companies have built sales and service offices in Britain and we are keen to see them grow into research and development centres," Outlaw said.

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