A senior Chinese diplomat has urged Yorkshire companies to play their part in developing a golden era of trade between Britain and China.
Sun Dali, the Manchester-based Consul General of the People’s Republic of China, told an audience of senior figures from the region’s legal sector that the Chinese government was planning a procurement spending programme of around 10 trillion US dollars over the next five to 10 years.
Speaking at the Leeds Conference, which was organised by Leeds Law Society, Mr Sun said that China and Britain had both benefited from China’s decision to open itself up to the outside world.
Speaking through an interpreter, Mr Sun said that during a recent trip to our region, a Chinese investor had decided “on the spot” to invest in York.
Mr Sun said: “That is just one vivid example of how we can co-operate, and how easily we can co-operate.”
He said the Chinese government’s planned procurement programme offered immense opportunities.
He stressed that China had developed a comprehensive legal system, but it was also important to remember that Chinese history and culture had developed over 5,000 years.
Mr Sun told the audience in Leeds Civic Hall: “There are other social rules that govern how you behave around the negotiating table.”
He said we were living in a golden era of bilateral relations between Britain and China.
He added: “I have full confidence in our co-operation in the years to come, in terms of the financial sector, the legal sector and more.”
The 70,000 Chinese students who head to the North of England each year also have a key role to play in developing ties between the two countries, according to Mr Sun.
He added: “Those Chinese students in the UK return to China to work and apply what they have learned. They bring back friendship and part of your culture, which gives reasons to believe that mutually beneficial co-operation between our two countries will carry on for ages.”
Mr Sun said that Yorkshire company bosses who wanted to bid for a share of China’s planned procurement work must “do their homework” and look at the Chinese government’s development plans.
He added: “Our consulate generals are happy to help you get in touch with the right organisations in China.”
Another speaker John Simmons, the minister counsellor for commercial affairs at the US Embassy in London , also stressed the importance of trade links between the US and the UK.
He added: “In the first four months of 2018, we’ve seen a 21 per cent increase in US-UK trade. It’s a very diverse relationship... I doubt we are going to maintain that kind of growth through the whole year, but it’s certainly a positive sign that we’re seeing fairly substantial growth.
“My office is focused in quite a few different areas; we’re most active in cyber security.
“We see more US firms, largely coming out of Silicon Valley, who are coming to the UK and do business here in a very sophisticated financial market.
“They are also very much using the UK as an entry point into Europe and that has been a key feature of the US presence in the UK for quite a while.
“We think there are about 7,000 or 8,000 US firms who are established in the UK.
He added: “It’s a very large presence that reflects the importance of the UK market, but also reflects how effective we have found the UK as a gateway into Europe.
“We spend a lot of time trying to promote UK travel to the US; British travellers go to the US in numbers of about five million a year.”
Delegates from some of the world’s biggest economic powerhouse appeared at the major conference to highlight the strength of the region’s legal sector.
The Leeds Conference, which is now in its second year, aimed to encourage debate about the challenges and opportunities facing the sector.
One of the speakers, Bill Barton, director of Barton Legal Limited, said: “Leeds and Yorkshire people are modest, friendly, hard working and talented - but in the modern world I am afraid that you have to actually tell people.
“You can no longer wait and presume that others will know this or find it out or be told.
“We have to do more to promote our city and the amazing work carried out here, by great people in brilliant companies.”
“Together we can bring more companies and more people to Leeds.”