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British Ambassador to China visits Bristol

Published on Thursday, 17th March 2016, contributed by AMBITIOUS

The British Ambassador to China Barbara Woodward was in Bristol earlier this week meeting with local businesses keen to forge closer trade links with the country. 

The visit coincides with the start of a trade mission to Guangzhou in Southern China which has been organised as part of the Smart City Prosperity Project, and will bring together representatives to discuss opportunities for future collaboration on smart city projects.

Ms Woodward’s series of meetings in Bristol were organised by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), which supports new and experienced exporters, and the China-Britain Business Council, the UK’s leading organisation helping companies trading with China, to help foster a closer relationship with China.

Ms Woodward began the day at Engine Shed where she had the opportunity to talk to representatives from Bristol City Council and Bath and North East Somerset Council (B&NES) about seeking ways to jointly engage with China, building on the industry strengths of the region and identifying potential business opportunities .

This was followed by a tour of Aardman. Here Ms Woodward met with Sean Clarke, Head of Aardman Rights and Brand Development to discuss the issue of Intellectual Property in China.  Aardman’s famous Shaun the Sheep animations are hugely popular in China and with 120,000 people attending Shaun events during the first Year of Cultural Exchange that between the UK and China in 2015.

Sean Clarke said: “We have enjoyed the support of the British Embassy in building our business in China over the last few years culminating in 2015 (the year of the Sheep) with a range of activities, including a Shaun the Sheep art exhibition in Beijing hosted by the embassy and launched by HRH Prince William.

This year marks Aardman’s 40th anniversary and we have evolved into being a studio that is now focussed on creating characters and entertainment for the global market place. China is now one of our biggest markets in the world and I look forward to continued discussions with the ambassador and UKTI on how they can support us in achieving our business objectives in this market.”

The visit concluded with a round table discussion with a number of local businesses including Bailey of Bristol, Tetronics International, AECOM and representatives from University of West of England. 

Some of the issues that were raised included living with China’s ‘new normal’ – the slower but higher quality economic growth the country is experiencing and its impact on UK exporters and service providers. The attendees also discussed the opportunities arising from the country’s ambitious plans for manufacturing such as the Made in China 2025 initiative and the One Belt, One Road proposal for the expansion of international trade. 

Antoaneta Becker, China Business Adviser UKTI SW and Southwest regional manager for the China-Britain Business Council said: “Some may argue that China is slowing down and is no longer the source of sensational news headlines that it has been for much of the past thirty years but this is deceptive. The adjustment to a slower, more sustainable growth has been expected for a while and in many ways it represents new opportunities for the UK, with our expertise in services and premium brands, as China transitions to an economy that is driven by consumption and innovation.” 

Ms Woodward has said that following President Xi Jinping’s State Visit to the UK last year the strong UK China relationship means contributes to the prosperity of both countries. She continued: “China still accounted for one third of global growth in 2015. It is a trillion dollar economy with an expanding middle class, and has huge opportunities as an export market for the whole of the UK.  Both our countries will benefit from working together – our economies will be more prosperous, our cultures richer, and international efforts to tackle the pressing problems facing the world will be the stronger.

China is undoubtedly a massive potential market for the UK, boasting the second largest economy after the US. UK exports to China rose by 9% in 2014, and it’s a market that many South West based businesses are keen to take advantage of. And China is not the only country that local businesses are keen to make links with.  The latest statistics from HMRC Regional Trade, released earlier this month, show that South West Exports have grown from £13.8bn to December 2014 to £15.2bn to December 2015.

For more information, please contact UKTI SW PR at AMBITIOUS t: 01179051177