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British business booming in China

By Chen Meiling | China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-20 09:45
Attendees talk beside the BP stand at the Labour Party Conference venue in Brighton, the United Kingdom. The company entered the finals of the British Business Awards held last Thursday. [Photo/Agencies]

UK ambassador hails 'golden era' and stronger ties ahead in awards speech

China will become an evermore important trade and investment partner for the United Kingdom as the latter prepares to leave the European Union, and the UK is looking forward to the Chinese market continuing to open up, especially in the service sector, said Barbara Woodward, the British ambassador to China.

"I think it will be even more important after Brexit that the UK remains open and engaged globally. We have already built, in the last three years, a golden era, a stronger trading relationship, with China. And I think we can continue to attract Chinese investment to the UK and continue to work with China in opening up the economy," Woodward said at the award ceremony of the 10th British Business Awards held in Beijing on Nov 15.

Over the last ten years, the Chinese economy has tripled in size and UK-China trade has doubled from EUR32 billion ($40.7 billion) in 2008 to EUR67 billion in 2017, which now makes China the UK's third-largest trading partner, according to Woodward.

"The reform and openingup creates huge opportunities for China's international trading partners and the UK benefits deeply from that," she said.

Cooperation in the manufacturing and automobiles sectors has been very strong, and the UK is looking forward to China continuing to open up its services sector, the ambassador added.

"The UK economy is very strong in financial services, legal services, education, tourism services, etc. As China opens up, that will really help UK-China trade and investment to grow even further," she said.

The ambassador's speech aligned with the goal of the annual British Business Awards - encouraging British companies to participate more deeply in China's development and in promoting Sino-UK cooperation.

The awards event was founded in 2008 to showcase the successes of British businesses in China and Chinese businesses in the UK, as organized by the British Chamber of Commerce in China.

As the country is celebrating the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up, the event's organizing committee set up a new category called 40 Years of Reform Award to celebrate companies that have played a role in that period.

The winner, jet engine maker Rolls-Royce, said that during its 50 years in the country, it has powered about half of China's wide-body airplane fleet since the Vickers Viscount aircraft in 1963.

Julian McCormack, director of Rolls-Royce China, said the Chinese market overtook the United Kingdom last year to become the company's second-largest market, contributing 12 percent of its global revenue.

During the first China International Import Expo, held earlier this month in Shanghai, Rolls-Royce signed an engine and long-term maintenance service agreement with China Eastern Airlines. The deal involves the airline's 20 Airbus A350-900 aircraft, with a total contract value of over $1.45 billion.

"Reform and opening-up has connected China to the world in an unimaginable way," McCormack said.

The company faces very few restrictions as a foreign engine manufacturer and has been free to cooperate with commercial partners in China for a long time, according to him.

McCormack said he came to China in the 1990s to study in Hunan province, and there were very few roads at that time.

"In order to go to the capital, it took four hours. But for today, it takes 20 minutes."

Yang Xiaoping, president of BP China, a nominee for the 40 Years of Reform Award, said that since the company entered the Chinese market in 1973, it has participated in and witnessed the achievements of reform and opening-up.

The company helped to build the first liquefied natural gas station in China in 2004, and now provides 36 percent of Guangdong province's natural gas, with business in all energy sectors expanding, she said.

According to Yang, in the past, foreign companies could only independently run 30 gas stations, but now there is no such limitation. As a result, the company plans to build another 1,000 gas stations in the next five years.

"The business environment is improving, which helps us to expand our business in China."

NomNom, a 2-year-old British food service startup, won Entrepreneur of the Year, for providing 1 million canteen meals every month for factory workers, school children and office employees. The company's clients include Apple, Foxconn and Google.

"What China has done over the past 40 years is phenomenal. They have done marvelously in growing their country, industrial revolution, and building bridges between China and the rest of the world," said Richard Craggs, founder and CEO of NomNom. "It should be respected what China is doing."

The event received 250 applications this year. These nominees were narrowed down into 44 finalists, and then separated into nine categories covering areas such as sustainability, innovation and inspiring women.

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