UK to sign trade deals worth £2.4bn with China

Britain said today that it was about to sign commercial deals with China worth more than £2.4bn, as Chancellor George Osborne prepared to meet China’s Vice Premier Ma Kai in London.

Full details of the prospective transactions were not immediately available. But Britain’s finance ministry said they included a $1bn joint venture with China related to a Malaysian oil terminal, and a £200m roject to develop nursing homes and vocational training schools in China.

Britain will also refund visa costs for up to 25,000 Chinese visitors on organised tours between 2015 and 2017.

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Osborne is meeting Ma as part of an annual Anglo-Chinese economic and financial dialogue, which last year took place in Beijing.

Britain’s Conservative-led government has made an effort to boost exports to China since 2010, in part because growth remains slow in many of Britain’s main export markets in continental Europe.

Last year China was Britain’s seventh-biggest goods export market, accounting for £12.4bn of exports - roughly four per cent of the total. Britain imported £33.4bn of goods from China over the same period.

Yesterday, the Bank of England said it had granted a wholesale branch licence to China’s largest lender, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, allowing it to become the first Chinese bank to open a new branch in more than 50 years.

Britain has been keen to attract Chinese banks and offshore trade in the yuan to bolster its position as the world’s main centre for foreign exchange trading.

In March, Britain and China signed an agreement to set up a clearing service for renminbi trading in London, which is competing with Luxembourg, New York, Paris and Frankfurt to become the top Western offshore yuan centre.

Osborne has also said he wants to see London explore connections with Chinese stock exchanges, and in June announced that Britain will provide guarantees for transactions denominated in renminbi.