UK companies are still in a state of limbo about what Brexit will mean for trade with neighbouring EU countries – so there's no better time to establish trade links further afield, and China recently gave them such an opportunity.
Enterprises from all over the world were welcomed to to Shanghai to showcase their latest products at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) recently.
The UK already exports a myriad of products to China, representing a cross-section of British industry and services, mostly machinery, electrical products and road vehicles.
However, with a national pavilion themed on innovation, John Edwards, British consul-general in Shanghai, explained that the CIIE was a chance for the UK to showcase itself as a player in high-tech and smart technology.
"CIIE is not a normal trade show; it is a celebration of China's 40 years of opening up. It is an amazing chance to highlight the things the UK has been working on with China in the areas of in-novation, creativity, AI, and Fin-tech," Edwards told Xinhua news before the event.
China, with the world's largest population and fastest growing consumer market, represents a key market for British exports. According to China Daily, China imported goods worth 12.46 trillion yuan ($2.89 trillion) last year – an increase of 18.7 per cent from 2016, making it an enormous draw for countries such as the UK.
In particular, UK-China trade reached a record £67.5 billion ($127.5 billion) in 2017, a 15 per cent increase from 2016. British government statistics show UK exports to China grew by 28.5 per cent in 2017, reaching £22.3 billion ($42.1 billion).
That's good news for British companies such as HyperVSN, a London-based company who used the CIIE as an opportunity to promote their new product, a small device that produces a hologram, seemingly out of thin air.
Co-founder Art Stavenka was happy with the turnout as dozens of onlookers excitedly pointed cameras in the direction of the holographic display in front of them: "The product is brand new and despite that, it's fast-moving. We are in a very exciting stage at the moment. There are similar products on the market but we believe we are years ahead of them and, hopefully, we'll maintain those gaps for years to come."
Founded six years ago in London, the company has a research and development centre in Eastern Europe and has already entered 70 countries, with partners and distributors in 50 countries "and counting," says Stavenka.
Many British companies secured deals with Chinese counterparts during the CIIE, including Rolls-Royce, which signed an agreement worth 10.13 billion yuan ($1.45 billion) with China's Eastern Airlines, one of the largest deals to come from the CIIE.
Ross McMahon, CEO of UK-based Kendal Nutricare, signed a 10-year MOU with Chinese based Orient International Holding Shanghai Foreign Trade Co., Ltd, explaining: "It's a big commitment by Orient International to work in the long term with us. It gives both companies a reason to invest and make long-term plans.
"For me as a businessman coming to China over the last 20 years, I've seen the country change enormously; it's got so modern. I've seen it change from bicycles to cars and now, at this show, I can already see CIIE is at a world standard."
According to McMahon, China, a country with over 17 million babies born in 2017, offers an enormous market for his product, a full-cream milk baby formula. The CIIE was an opportunity to make the contacts necessary to push his company further in the Chinese market.
"It's been a tremendous week in terms of getting to know better my partners here, to showcase to the world audience the quality of products and the range we have - all of our organic products from England. Both teams are getting to know each other better. I think the British government will invest more in doing business in China, just as China is very interested in British quality."
Stavenka says the Chinese market is one of the most attractive for enterprises in his sector: "The Chinese market is quite favourable for new technologies like ours. You won't find that many markets that like the new tech, that like the visual appeal, who love the hologram sector; I'd say Japan, China and Korea, to name a few."
While the UK struggles to finalise a Brexit deal, many companies are concerned about its impact, but Kendal Nutricare isn't one of them.
"Domestically we sell in the UK, and after that our biggest markets are South East Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, so we're not that worried at all," said McMahon. Stavenka, whose company has an R&D centre in Minsk, still hopes Brexit won't be finalised but, even if it is, it won't be a concern for their product, which is already being sold in many countries outside of the EU.
Content sourced from the People's Daily Online here