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China Daily Website

UK stays open for Chinese investors

Updated: 2013-12-04 07:42
By He Wei in Shanghai ( China Daily)

Britain will continue to stay "open and welcoming" to Chinese investment by ushering in a string of preferential policies, British Prime Minister David Cameron said in Shanghai on Tuesday.

These include a fast-track business visa procedure and several business pacts signed between leading enterprises from both sides, to bolster the "indispensable partnership" between London and Beijing, Cameron said.

In a speech to Shanghai Jiaotong University students, he said one of Britain's strengths is to allow Chinese investment into sensitive areas such as national utilities and new airports.

"While some countries might say they don't want foreign capital and should do these things themselves, Britain doesn't take that view," he said.

"You should be open and welcoming toward foreign capital in our country … because that will strengthen your economy," he said.

Cameron said the two governments have discussed a range of issues, including the problems in Syria and the need to ensure that Iran is free of nuclear weapons.

He also underscored the importance of the 1943 Cairo Declaration, which established the post-World War II international order.

"We think it is important that the post-war settlement is properly adhered to, and that needs to be done on all side.

"Now we need to put that behind us ... and we need good, stable and friendly relations between all the countries of the Asia-Pacific region," he told China Central Television in an interview.

Cameron said China's "miraculous economic growth" and the online vibrancy in the country have left a deep impression on him.

"I was fortunate to meet Jack Ma, the chairman of Alibaba, this morning. We need to see what is happening in China online and it is fascinating to hear what he is doing," he said.

To pave the way for smooth business contacts, Britain will roll out a same-day business visa service for applicants in Shanghai from next year, and simplify procedures to obtain a British visa if the applicants apply for a Schengen visa at the same time.

The Schengen Area is a group of 26 European countries that have abolished passport and immigration controls at their common borders.

On Tuesday morning, Cameron witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between several British companies and Alibaba Group, China's largest e-commerce group, so that the British firms can use the digital platform to sell goods and services to China.

Andy Rubin, chief executive officer of Pentland, one of the UK's largest shoe businesses, said several brands have opened online stores on Alibaba's business-to-customer site Tmall.

They have "gained traction" among Chinese consumers, according to a statement from Alibaba.

Paul Jowett, a partner at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, said: "In cases such as this where there is a limited history of investment between the countries, this helps to build trust and open people's eyes to the potential benefits of investing. Chinese Internet groups are only expected to expand outside China once the domestic market has become fully saturated."

Steve Varley, chairman of Ernst & Young in the UK and Ireland and a member of the Cameron business delegation to China, said these moves are also in line with the goal of including not just large businesses, but also small and medium-sized British enterprises to "ride the boom" in the bilateral economic relationship.

"The prime minister has emphasized that what the UK has to offer is the best fit for China's growth in the next decade," Varley said.

He also said Britain will embrace China's capital and technology in high speed railways, and the two nations may combine to seek opportunities in developed economies such as the United States and also in emerging markets like Africa.

Jowett expects many more private enterprises to invest in Britain with new opportunities emerging in the consumer goods, food and agricultural sectors, as well as in the automotive and other high-tech sectors.

H-J Colston, director and founder member of the Chopsticks Club, a leading social club promoting UK-China relations, said she hopes that the visit and subsequent interest in China will be good for the British population to understand China, so that both sides are in a better position to achieve a win-win situation on many levels.