Chinese and British officials flirt with possibility of an early post-Brexit trade deal
Chinese officials are open to launching trade negotiations with Britain in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, raising hopes that the UK’s economy can receive a boost after it leaves the EU.
Critics of Brexit warned that the UK could find itself alone and cut off from the world economy outside the EU, but the indications from China are that deals are possible.
Xing Houyuan, an official in the state-backed Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told government mouthpiece the China Daily that China is being frustrated by the EU.
The “situation in Western Europe will push China and the UK to make a trade treaty,” the publication said.
British trade minister and former Waitrose boss Lord Price is in Hong Kong where he talked up the possibility of trade deals with emerging markets including China.
“I’m optimistic about the future: particularly in helping create a second Elizabethan Golden Age. The first Golden Age was based on peace, prosperity, new trading markets and a flourishing of the arts,” he told the British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, adding that he is pushing for “a continued close trading relationship with Europe.”
“There’s also a prospect for striking new deals with Canada, New Zealand and Australia which could form the beginning of a Commonwealth trading pact.”
“And to the opportunities in the East, where for centuries British merchants have traded with China for tea, white gold and porcelain as well as with Japan, South Korea and other Asian nations,” said Lord Price.
At the same time Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang was positive on the outlook for more investment into the UK.
“The global investment environment will be more transparent and create more chances in different fields for new investment,” Mr Shen told the government-owned publication.
“Therefore, Chinese companies’ outbound direct investment will remain positive and stable.”
China’s government wants to export $1 trillion of services per year and has set the country’s firms targets to invest $720bn overseas over the next four years.
Britain has not negotiated a trade deal for decades as EU membership meant Brussels was responsible for international treaties.
As a result the UK has few trade specialists among the civil service, at a time when the country needs to negotiate a new arrangement with Brussels as well as the 50 countries with which the EU has deals, on top of extra treaties the UK will want to draw up with the rest of the world.
One way out would be to borrow or hire negotiators from elsewhere – New Zealand has already offered to loan staff to the British civil service.
It may prove easier for the UK to strike new deals with non-EU countries. As well as Ms Xing warning that the Chinese deal with the EU is becoming bogged down, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and US is beset with difficulties.
While the UK may be able to deal with countries such as China, President Barack Obama has repeatedly said that Britain would be “at the back of the queue” for a treaty with the US.