UK-Sino trade talks as Chinese investment in London surges

Post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and China considered a priority in the coming months. The deal has been highlighted amid concerns of accelerated Chinese investment within London.

UK and China attempt to agree a post-Brexit trade deal
The UK stepped up its drive to reach a post-Brexit trade deal with China on Tuesday when Foreign Office minister Mark Field arrived in Beijing for high-level talks.Coinciding with his trip – which will later take in Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore – was publication of a report showing Chinese investment in London’s commercial property market had more than tripled since last year's referendum on EU membership.

Chinese investment within the UK

Mr Field will have meetings with China's foreign minister Wang Yi, vice-foreign minister Wang Chao and assistant foreign minister Kong Xuanyou.“China is a key global player and an essential partner for the UK in many areas, not least trade and investment and foreign policy,” Mr Field said.“This has been particularly clear in recent weeks as we worked closely with China and other United Nations partners to respond to the threat North Korea poses to regional stability and security.“We exported £16.7 billion worth of goods to China in 2016 and that figure will continue to grow as we strengthen links between our countries.“I look forward to discussions on these issues in Beijing, and harnessing the UK-China Global Partnership to tackle issues of global concern such as the illegal wildlife trade.”The Beijing meetings came as figures showed Chinese investors – most of them through Hong Kong companies – spent $5.1 billion in the London commercial market during the first six months of the year, the highest figure on record and well ahead of the $3.5 billion spent in all of 2016.Sam Crispin, chief executive officer of ABP Global Holdings' Hong Kong sales unit and former head of PwC’s real estate business advisory service, said mainland Chinese and Asian companies were eyeing investments in London despite Brexit uncertainty and Beijing’s crackdown on overseas property deals.
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ABP is behind the $2.2 billion project to revive the Royal Albert Docks in London's East End and turn the 137-year-old basin into a financial and business district. Mr Crispin told the South China Morning Post that firms from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and India had already acquired or reserved 60 per cent of total office space – 33,388 square metres – in the first phase of the project.He said the latest State Council directive issued on Friday, restricting Chinese overseas investments in property, hotels and sports clubs, was likely to have only limited impact on the project as ABP primarily targets “companies that already have operations in Hong Kong and other Asian countries” and hopes “to attract owner-occupiers”.

Chinese ambassador dismisses security concerns over investment

Meanwhile, Liu Xiaoming, China's ambassador in London, has publicly rebuffed British media claims that Chinese investment in the UK posed a threat to the country's national security.In an article in the London Evening Standard, Mr Liu described the claims as “both groundless and harmful” and said Chinese investment in the UK was mutually beneficial.The ambassador said that $23.2 billion of Chinese non-financial investment in the UK had already gone to a wide range of sectors, creating new jobs, generating green, low carbon growth and bringing economic prosperity and stability.“The Hinkley Point project partly financed by the Chinese company, for example, is expected to create 26,000 jobs and, upon completion, reduce nine million tons of carbon emission every year,” Mr Liu wrote, adding that Britain's commitment to remaining open to overseas trade and investment was key to boosting the confidence of foreign investors.“As the Brexit negotiations continue and the ensuing uncertainties and negative impacts unfold, for Britain and for foreign investors, confidence is more valuable than gold,” he added.“Britain should make the right decision and maintain its confidence, rather than being swayed by protectionism or looking at Chinese investment through Cold War-tinted spectacles.”For related news and features, visit our Brexit section.

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