LONDON — Since the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was launched in 2013, it has provided an important framework for UK-China cooperation in a number of areas, such as transportation, infrastructure, financial and professional services, said Mark Hedley, regional director for Greater London at the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC).
Britain is the first Western country to issue RMB sovereign bonds and the first major Western country to apply for full membership of the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
In early 2018, British Prime Minister Theresa May highlighted the importance of the BRI and Britain’s position as a “natural partner” for the initiative during her visit to China.
“As an international financial center, London takes foreign exchange trading as one of its remarkable features, with its trading volume reaching 40 percent of the world’s total,” said Yang Aimin, chairman of China Construction Bank (London) Ltd.
“Currently, the trading volume of London’s daily RMB exchange is as much as China Foreign Exchange Trading Center’s daily trading volume,” he told Xinhua.
Another key project of cooperation is London-Shanghai Stock Connect which is expected to be launched to provide a direct channel for equity trading between the two countries.
“Linking one of the world’s largest capital markets with one of the world’s most international financial centers is good news for Britain, China and the wider global economy. It will allow global investors to benefit from China’s growth through London, while Britain-listed companies will be able to access Chinese investors directly,” said Catherine McGuinness, chair of the Policy and Resources Committee of the City of London Corporation.
In terms of infrastructure, another key milestone was the maiden journey of the Yiwu-Barking train in 2017, the first direct freight railway route linking China and Britain. It provides a more cost-saving shipping option for Chinese and British exporters.
“China’s plans for going global, internationalizing its currency and opening up its financial services sector means it continues to prioritize London as a partner,” said McGuinness in a recent interview with Xinhua.
She said the BRI is a centennial project and could bring about some 1.8 billion British pounds (2.4 billion) to Britain’s gross domestic product (GDP) if her country fully joins it.
Speaking of the future opportunities for British businesses, Hedley told Xinhua that Britain has expertise across a wide range of areas relating to BRI projects, including project financing, project management, engineering and design, standards, legal services, and so on.
The CBBC is a British organization helping its member companies to develop commercial links with Chinese ones.
“As a membership organization, our network includes a wide spectrum of British companies providing different products and services that are in significant demand from BRI investors and contractors,” said Hedley.
He said that the CBBC had previously published a number of reports highlighting opportunities along the Belt and Road for British businesses and organized events to publicize the opportunities created by the BRI.
Private finance is increasingly necessary alongside state capital to fund BRI projects, Hedley said, adding that banks such as Standard Chartered and HSBC have been increasingly providing financial instruments to fund new projects.
British companies have much experience in risk management, including pre-project due diligence, project insurance and post-project restructuring to help mitigate some of the risks involved in BRI projects, he said.
Besides, Britain has some of the world’s best engineering, construction and design companies like Arup, Atkins, Mott Macdonald and John Wood Group which are actively involved in a wide range of BRI projects, covering areas such as infrastructure, energy, water resources, and planning for new cities and development zones, he said.
Other areas in which Britain excels include legal services, international standards, education and training, marketing and public relations, he said.
China will host the second BRI forum in Beijing in late April.
“We hope that this year’s BRI forum can provide a platform for a further deepening of international Belt and Road collaboration,” he added.