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New direct route boosts Sino-UK trade

By LI XUEQING in Liverpool, the United Kingdom | China Daily | Updated: 2022-05-12 09:19

Zheng Zeguang (second from right), Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom, and Allseas Group's Managing Director Darren Wright (right), attend a ceremony on April 26 at the Port of Liverpool celebrating the first anniversary of China Xpress. [Photo/Xinhua]

Phenomenal demand enabled the company to employ more than 25 new workers in the UK and a similar number in China.

This year, they set up Allseas Shipping Company, a branch based in the UK, to enable growth of the shipping line service, with plans to cooperate with more ports in China.

The fast growth of the shipping line fits the needs of companies involved in trade between China and the UK against the backdrop of the pandemic and proves the potential and resilience of commerce between the two countries, the ambassador said at the ceremony.

'A completely different world'

Liverpool has long-established trade and shipping links with China, particularly with Shanghai. In 1865, Liverpool shipowner Alfred Holt started the Ocean Steam Ship Co, better known as the Blue Funnel Line, which began trading with China at a time when Chinese tea and silk were the UK's main imports.

The company then employed large numbers of Chinese mariners, who were the foundation of Liverpool's Chinese community, which is one of the oldest in Europe.

"But now we are in a completely different world," Zheng said.

During the past 50 years, ever since the establishment of ambassadorial diplomatic relations between the two countries, bilateral trade in goods between them has increased from a little more than $300 million to more than $110 billion in 2021.

In May 2021, China replaced Germany as the UK's biggest single import market.

"Products from China that are good value for money have supported the UK in fighting the pandemic and curbing the pressure of rising prices, while famous-brand products from the UK meet the diverse needs of China's huge consumer market," Zheng said.

As a significant maritime center for shipping, Liverpool, a sister city of China's economic powerhouse Shanghai since 1999, has witnessed the rapid growth of UK-China trade cooperation.

The city-to-city relationship saw continuous growth, despite some ups and downs in the China-UK bilateral relationship.

Claudio Veritiero, chief executive officer of Peel Ports Group, owner of the Port of Liverpool, said Chinese cargo through the Port of Liverpool has more than doubled in the past five years, with a total value of $1 billion by 2021.

"The UK is very much up for businesses in the post-COVID and post-Brexit era, and the country is very much facing outward across the world. From the perspective of the Port of Liverpool, we are very keen to be a part of the continued and growing trade flows with our partners," Veritiero said.

Once called the "Second City of the Empire", Liverpool eclipsed even London for commerce in the 19th century.

But, from the mid-1970s, Liverpool's docks and traditional manufacturing industries started to decline, due to the restructuring of shipping and heavy industry. The port then concentrated on regeneration, a process that continues today.

Earlier, before the ceremony to commemorate the shipping route, the ambassador met Lord Mayor of Liverpool Councilor Mary Rasmussen at Liverpool Town Hall, who noted that the city relishes new opportunities to cooperate with China.

She said the city is pushing forward with infrastructure and smart-city upgrades, and seeking to vitalize its manufacturing and shipping center. Cooperation with Chinese cities, including Shanghai, has brought many new opportunities to Liverpool, she said.

"You will never walk alone," Zheng said, borrowing from the anthem of Liverpool Football Club, as he called for closer trade ties, closer people-to-people relations, and stronger links between Liverpool and Shanghai, and between China and the UK.

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