‘Highly successful’ China trade mission will help pave the way for economic growth across the Midlands

A Midlands Engine trade mission to China has been hailed ‘highly successful’ after preparing the ground for agreements and deals that will drive economic growth and investment across the region.

Midlands Engine Chairman Sir John Peace, who led a delegation of business leaders, scientists and university representatives, said: “This was a highly successful trade mission which reinforced our relationships at governmental and commercial levels.

“We’ve also opened a lot of doors that will no doubt pay dividends for some significant agreements and deals in the region over the coming years. This is great news for the Midlands and demonstrates how we are seeking to open up global markets and drive economic growth and investment.”

The mission, which was the first to be co-ordinated and led by the Midlands Engine, visited Guizhou, Zhejiang and Shanghai during the week and a packed agenda saw meetings with the governors of Guizhou and Zhejiang, education department officials, airport and airline representatives, senior officers from Alibaba, Geely and FAST (space centre).

The overarching themes of the mission included the following: Big Data, direct cargo and passenger flights, education, innovation, sport and culture, tourism and commercial deals.

China has been identified as a key market where the Midlands Engine can develop trade links in support of the Internationalisation agenda. The mission was shaped by the Midlands Engine China Strategy which highlights the need to invest in relationships to allow future commercial deals in support of the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

The mission sought to achieve a number of objectives including the following:

  • Begin negotiations for a five-year plan with the Governor of Zhejiang Province that will support trade and investment. This would be the first region to region collaboration of this nature established within the UK
  • Make the case for direct aviation links between China and the Midlands
  • Explore how the Midlands can capitalise on the rapid developments of Big Data, AI and Fin Tech
  • Establish new communication structures to better connect and fund innovation initiatives, including space and satellite technology, and the commercialisation of green energy solutions
  • Promote the Midlands as a tourism destination
  • Examine how the Midlands’ football clubs can develop stronger connections
  • Strengthen cultural links and initiatives, particularly across schools, music, sport and creative industries

Sir John added: “We have made significant progress with all of our objectives and remain confident that we can start to see some action in many of these areas as a direct result of the mission.

“Establishing strong relationships is critical ahead of any trade deals and the Midlands Engine has shown how it can add value not only at the high level in terms of promoting the region and establishing strategic relations but also at the more granular business-to-business level.”

Gerard Haughey, head of global trade and receivables finance at HSBC UK, said: “China values UK hi-tech goods and specialist expertise in fast-growth areas. Businesses need to develop strong relationships within the Chinese market to seize the country’s US$8 trillion import opportunity.

“The Midlands is at the heart of manufacturing in the UK and the region is home to innovative and forward-thinking businesses that are increasingly exporting to the world. China has moved up the value chain and its businesses are using AI and Big Data more and more, as part of their growth plans.

“Businesses in the Midlands are in a fantastic position to take advantage of China’s consumer and infrastructure growth, as demand for UK goods and services increases.”

The week-long trade mission (November 23-30) took place in three provinces which have a combined economy of $1.3 trillion:

  • Guizhou: A region growing at more than 10% year on year which has become known as China’s Big Data Hub. The delegation were also introduced to their Free Trade Zone
  • Zhejiang: One of the most affluent provinces of China with substantial trade and investment links already established with the Midlands
  • Shanghai: China’s financial and commercial hub

This was the Midlands Engine’s second trade mission to China this year. The last one, in September, focused on the creative and design sectors.

An ensemble from the Zhejiang Conservatory of Music, playing in Nottingham, provided a musical send-off to some members of the 18-strong delegation of senior government on Friday 23 November. The delegation returned on Saturday 01 December.

Accompanying Sir John on the trip were Anthony May, chair of the Midlands Engine Operations Board and Chief Executive of Nottinghamshire County Council, British Embassy officials, East Midlands Airport, Birmingham Airport, HSBC, Nottingham Trent University, the University of Leicester, the University of Birmingham, the China-Britain Football Centre, Hampton Holdings, United Travel and the Department for International Trade.