Business and political leaders from the Eastern region and London gathered on the 21st November to officially launch the East of England China Forum which aims to stimulate inward investment, tourism spend, student numbers and export opportunities with China.
Hosted by Daniel Zeichner MP in the House of Commons’ Members Dining Room, the 150-strong guest list included a delegation of political and business leaders from China’s Jiangsu province which has had strong links with Essex County Council for over 30 years.
The East of England China Forum launch event included speeches from:
• Daniel Zeichner MP, Member of Parliament for Cambridge, Shadow Transport Minister
• Ken O’Toole Chief Executive Officer, London Stansted Airport (speech attached)
• Mr Zhang Bin, Counsellor Commercial, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland
• Mr Duan Xiong, Deputy Director, General of Jiangsu Provincial Department of Science and Technology
• Mr Zhou Changqing, Deputy Director-General of Department of Commerce of Jiangsu Province
• Will Quince MP, Member of Parliament for Colchester, Essex, Committee Member of All-Party Parliamentary Group for China
The initiative is facilitated by London Stansted Airport, which is targeting additional long-haul routes, including China, to add to its growing network of 200 destinations. The Forum brings together business groups, county councils and local government, tourism agencies and universities to work together on building relationships and to support the drive to secure a direct Chinese air link.
It will also provide a focus for organisations looking to increase their connectivity with China, and to encourage more businesses to explore opportunities in China.
At the event, London Stansted Airport CEO Ken O’Toole said:
“Our expectation is that today’s launch will eventually culminate in the securing of a direct link between Stansted and China. Certainly on the basis of the discussions we are already having with a range of Chinese carriers, I see no reason why Stansted cannot be the Chinese gateway to the East of England for investors and tourists looking to take advantage of all the exciting opportunities available to them.
“As many of you will have seen first-hand, the East of England is increasingly playing a leading role in heralding a golden era of economic co-operation between the UK and China.”
Last year, China accounted for 30 per cent of all global economic growth and the country’s sustained expansion has created a surge in UK bound tourism and investment as well as increased demand for British education, research capabilities, goods and services. In 2016, the combined value of imports and exports between the East of England and China was valued at £4.3 billion.
Daniel Zeichner MP, said:
“I want to thank Stansted and Essex County Council for hosting and establishing the Forum, aspiring to emulate the success of similar initiatives in Manchester.
“I also want to note the recent decision that will allow expansion at Stansted, and highlight the importance of Stansted within the regional economy; as a member of the Transport Select Committee I also note the opportunities for Stansted given the shortage of capacity in the South East while the third runway at Heathrow continues to be considered; and most important of all for today, reflected on the huge growth of links with China in Cambridge. So for both Cambridge and the wider region, this is a very important opportunity to foster better links, and hopefully direct communications with regions in China.”
Speaking to guests, Zhou Changqing, Deputy Director General of the Department of Commerce of Jiangsu Province said:
“We are in a golden-era of economic cooperation between China and UK and we need to further strengthen the local exchanges. Jiangsu and Essex have a long-standing relationship, we would like to further enhance the cooperation with the East of England. I strongly believe, based on practical local exchanges, there will be a brighter future for comprehensive China-UK cooperation.”
Will Quince MP, a committee member of the All Party Parliamentary China Group, also spoke about the importance of developing the relationship between the East of England and Jiangsu province and the opportunities for trade and economic development.
Essex County Council has been instrumental in the formation of the East of England China Forum. Cllr Kevin Bentley, Deputy Leader, Essex County Council said:
“This Forum will transform the East of England’s business, investment and R&D performance in China. Essex County Council’s 30-year partnership with Jiangsu will be opened up to benefit the whole of the East of England, while the strengths of the region’s businesses, universities and local economic development authorities will enable us to put the whole region ‘on the map’ across China. By working together to achieve one of the Forum’s key objectives, to open a new direct air route between Stansted and China, we will give an overnight boost to the region’s tourism, business and higher education sectors.”
The formation of a similar Forum in Manchester has previously proved very successful, where a partnership between Manchester Airport, local Government, tourism agencies, universities and the business community helped to secure direct links to both Hong Kong and Beijing in 2014 and 2016 respectively. The Beijing route alone helped exports from the north of England to China increase by 260 per cent to £200 million per month while Chinese visitors to the north increased by more than 50 per cent.
Businesses in London and the East of England interested in joining the Forum are asked to express their interest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.