The chancellor, Philip Hammond, has called for closer economic ties with China as Britain enters a new, post-Brexit era.
Speaking at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing celebrating President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road initiative”, Hammond heaped praise on his hosts and said Britain was a “natural partner” for Beijing as it pushed ahead with a massive infrastructure campaign some call the most ambitious in history.
“China and the UK have a long and rich trading history. Indeed, the English first attempted to find a trade route to China in the 16th century although it took us four decades to find one,” Hammond told the opening session of the two-day forum.
“I welcome the ‘Belt and Road initiative’ as an opportunity to strengthen these ties and I welcome the progress that has already been made.”
“Britain, lying at the Western end of the Belt and Road, is a natural partner in this endeavor,” Hammond said in a speech at the “One Belt One Road” forum in Beijing, according to his official remarks.
“As we embark on a new chapter in our history, as we leave the European Union, we want to maintain a close and open trading partnership with our European neighbors but at the same time, it is our ambition to secure free trade agreements around the world with new partners and old allies alike.”
“Our ambition is for more trade, not less,” he added. “China clearly shares that ambition.”
Hammond’s remarks betrayed no sign of worry or concern. But the U.K. is facing serious economic peril and uncertainty as a result of Brexit. The challenges are compounded by the fact that according to the EU treaties, the U.K. is legally prohibited from unilaterally pursuing new trade agreements while it is still a member of the EU.
The Chinese Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming, speaking on the impact of Brexit between the two countries said that The solid foundations, the internal impetus and the broad prospect of the China-UK relations have all remained unchanged,"
For those who do not know The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation is being held on May 14–15, 2017 in Beijing, drawing at least 28 heads of state and representatives from more than 130 countries and 70 international organizations.
It's the premier diplomatic event in the year's Chinese diplomatic calendar and the highest profile international event promoting the Belt and Road Initiative.