Business / Economy

Govt expresses positive attitude on free trade agreement talks with the UK

By Zhong Nan (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-01 10:58

China is willing to take a positive attitude to carry out free trade agreement talks with the United Kingdom if it wants to further deepen its business ties with China, the Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday.

Zhang Shaogang, the ministry's director-general of the department of international trade and economic affairs, said as the UK is a major world economy, China would respect its wishes if it wanted to launch free trade agreement talks.

Technically, when it does leave the European Union after final talks with the European Commission, the UK government will be able to agree free trade agreements with other economies, even if it will no longer benefit from the EU's free trade pacts with 53 countries and regions.

"Gaining the rights to form FTAs with China and other suitable economies was one of 'Leave' campaigner Boris Johnson's core arguments," said He Wenwei, director of the research center for European and American studies at the Beijing-based China Association of International Trade.

He predicted that negotiations over an FTA with China would likely start in three to five years, allowing for a disengagement period between the UK and the EU.

Two wealthy non-EU member countries have made such FTA moves with Beijing-Switzerland signed a free trade agreement with China in 2014, and Norway is now in talks with China to reach another free trade deal.

Bilateral goods trade between China and the EU amounted to $564.85 billion in 2015, while trade between China and the UK reached $78.54 billion, data from General Administration of Customs showed.

"However, because the UK used to have strong voice in Brussels, its exit from the EU will increase China's time and resource costs in negotiating a China-EU free trade agreement and a comprehensive EU-China investment treaty without the UK," said He.

The EU and China have already started negotiations on a business investment treaty, which is expected to give easier market access for EU companies into the China market.

Both sides wish to conclude the talks by the end of this year. 

Hot Topics

Editor's Picks