With the United Kingdom being the guest of honor for the China International Fair for Trade in Services, government officials and business leaders have hailed the prospects of China-UK cooperation in the services sector.
The fair, which was held in Beijing from Saturday to Wednesday, welcomed the largest delegation led by Dominic Johnson, the UK's minister of state for business and trade, with more than 60 companies and institutions from the financial, education and sports sectors.
In a reception held by the China-Britain Business Council on Friday, Johnson said he is "passionate about encouraging China investment in the UK, as well as UK investment in China".
On Saturday, Johnson and other officials, including Xia Linmao, deputy mayor of Beijing, and Caroline Wilson, British ambassador to China, attended the launch of the pavilion on Saturday.
The British National Pavilion at the fair highlighted the UK's strength in the services trade, encompassing education, sports, healthcare and cultural creativity.
A model of London's iconic Tower Bridge, made with recycled materials, was seen at the pavilion.
Tom Duke, British trade commissioner to China, told Global Times: "As China continues to develop, more and more people value the services in which the UK excels. Whether it is financial services, such as pensions and insurance, or healthcare and environmental services that improve the quality of life, we see great potential for UK-China business cooperation."
The latest data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development showed the UK ranked second in exporting services with a value of $494 billion last year, and China ranked second in importing services with a value of $573 billion.
Julian Fisher, chairman of the British Chamber of Commerce in China, told Xinhua News Agency that 80 percent of the UK economy is services, but only about 42 percent of the export to China are services. "We really want to grow that," he said.
At the fair, British educational charity Engage with China signed a memorandum of understanding with Chinese company BE Education to bring 10 British teenagers to China for their A-level studies at Wycombe Abbey School in Changzhou, Jiangsu province.
"Teaching young people about China is critical to future prosperity and effective cross-cultural engagement," H-J Colston-Inge, director of Engage with China, said. "These scholars will be highly valued and skilled business leaders of the future and could be at the heart of building stronger China-UK relations."
British banks, such as Standard Chartered, organized a salon on environmental, social and corporate governance, or ESG, and low-carbon transformation at the UK pavilion.
Sebastian Wood, chairman of the China branch of British multinational asset management company Schroders, told China Today magazine: "We have a strong ESG record internationally. We look forward very much to bringing that capability to China to help China's carbon transition and support the regulators in the government as they put policies in place that will accelerate the shift to zero carbon."
At the China International Finance Annual Forum, held on the sidelines of the fair on Sunday, James Sassoon, president of the China-Britain Business Council, said: "We can see that while geopolitics are complex, the China-UK relationship is stable and expanding, and at the core of this relationship is financial and professional services, including education and research and development."
Geraldine McCafferty, deputy head of mission, the British Embassy in Beijing, said the United Kingdom does not believe in the "decoupling" narrative. "We think that international trade is a good thing. The more we reform and open up our economies, the better it is for global prosperity."
McCafferty said that with closer business ties, Chinese and British economies will further benefit from the services sector.
As the global economy is dealing with a sluggish recovery and cross-border investments remain lackluster, China has intensified efforts to boost its foreign investment inflow, unveiling 24 targeted policy measures in mid-August.
The authorities pledged to ensure that foreign businesses receive the same treatment as their Chinese counterparts and enjoy stronger fiscal support and tax incentives.
The policy rollout will boost the confidence of multinational corporations in conducting long-term operations in China and, therefore, play a pivotal role in revitalizing global cross-border investments.
Zhao Ping, dean of the Academy of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said a well-developed business environment can effectively upgrade China's innovation climate and offer concrete opportunities for multinationals to take part in the country's opening-up and innovation drive.