China’s Foreign Ministry has adopted a friendly stance toward the United Kingdom, saying Beijing is open to promoting bilateral trade and investment cooperation between countries.
The Chinese government has stated that it is open to negotiations on a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom following its separation from the EU in March 2019. In addition, a senior official of the Chinese Foreign Ministry called for a trade dialogue with the US.
According to newly appointed British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, currently on his first overseas tour, China has expressed interest in closing a comprehensive trade agreement with the UK after Brexit. Secretary Hunt emphasized that preliminary understanding on bilateral trade could significantly strengthen British bargaining power in the ongoing negotiations with Brussels.
During a joint press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Secretary Hunt said that Beijing had offered “to open discussions on a possible free trade agreement between Britain and China after Brexit, and this is something we give good and we agreed to explore [the possibilities]. ”
The move fits into the wider trade agenda of Prime Minister Theresa May’s conservative and unionist cabinet, which previously said bilateral trade agreements would be the top priority immediately after Brexit.
In Beijing, Hunt also had meetings with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and senior trade officials in the Communist Party of China, Yang Jiechi.
“China and Britain have very different systems, but we have a lot in common, and we in the UK think that the rise of the Chinese and Chinese economies and Chinese energy can and should be a positive force in the world,” Hunt said.
A possible deal between London and Beijing would also greatly benefit China. After two investigations into Chinese commercial practices in the US and subsequent trade restrictions, Beijing is now looking for a new source of technology as well as new destinations for its exports of manufactured goods.
While China has been promoting its “One Belt, One Road” initiative to ensure trade and investment preferences across Asia, in addition to its “yuan diplomacy,” officials in Beijing know the importance of maintaining good business relations with advanced economies.
During a press conference with Hunt, Wang said the UK and China “have agreed to proactively link each other’s development strategies and expand the scale of trade and mutual investment.”
The two sides also reaffirmed their commitment to oppose what they called “protectionist policies and trade restrictions”, with China seeking support in global trade, the engine of the Chinese economy in the last two decades, particularly after the accession of the World Trade Organization ( WTO).
Wang criticized the US for the Trump government’s new trade agenda. The Chinese official pointed out that US trade imbalances are not China’s fault and stem from the overvaluation of the US dollar, the large US consumer market, the low US savings rate and the limits of US high technology exports.
He also praised the large volumes of cheap Chinese products, which Wang believes have benefited the American consumer over the past two decades.
Wang once again urged the US to continue to negotiate rather than advance the battle of mutual friction with restrictions on mutual trade following Trump’s unilateral imposition of global industrial metals tariffs as well as the $50 billion in Chinese exports as a result of the Section 301 investigation.
The White House also pledged to impose tariffs on an additional $450 billion worth of Chinese trade, unless Beijing shows “good faith in its approach to trade.”
“China’s door to dialogue and negotiations is always open, but dialogue must be based on equality, mutual respect and rules,” said the Chinese foreign minister. “Any unilateral threat and pressure will only have the opposite effect.”