[Exclusive Interview] British Consul-General: West PRD are of great potential
2011-April-14 Source: Newsgd.com
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A business delegation headed by the new British Consul-General in Guangzhou Alastair Morgan, visited three west Pearl River Delta cities including Zhuhai, Zhongshan and Jiangmen from March 28 to 30 where13 British companies from different sectors, such as infrastructure and transport, construction and design, and professional services participated in the mission, aiming to find more business opportunities in PRD.

Exclusive interview with Mr. Alastair Morgan

Q: You have visited Zhuhai, Zhongshan and Jiangmen, why did you choose these three places?

A: We think there are business opportunities for British companies all across the PRD, we also think there are opportunities for companies from PRD to invest in the UK and collaborate with British companies.

We led a mission to Zhuhai last year and we are very pleased to follow up and to take more companies to Zhuhai. Zhuhai is a very well-known city internationally. We feel all these three cities are of great potential because of the very fast rate of growth that they have. And Jiangmen is said to have a 15 percent growth in the next five-year plan and we are going to see double digit growth in all these cities. Of course, the improvements in the infrastructure around the PRD, including the high-speed train to Guangzhou means increasing new opportunities for business.

We took a mission of companies engaged in infrastructure because it is going to have much investment in infrastructure in these cities. UK has such expertise in different aspects of infrastructure, including the renovation of the old buildings, urban planning and green buildings as well as some of the most advanced architectural design for landmark buildings.

All the three cities are looking to preserve their environment, to reduce emissions but at the same time to lead the economic environment. Really, they have great opportunities to work with our British infrastructure companies. We also brought service companies, particularly financial services companies who can provide advice and expertise to a whole range of companies.

Q: What do you think of the advantages and disadvantages of these three cities?

A: One of the first disadvantages of Jiangmen, in particular, is that it is not very well known. Jiangmen is the leading source of Overseas Chinese, so, in the Chinese community, globally, it is very well-known. But if you talk to most people in the UK, they would not have heard of Jiangmen even though it is right next door to Macao and Hong Kong. It is really convenient for international business.

I think the challenges all the cities will face is that they need to continue to compete with other regions. They need to compete with neighboring Asian countries and inland provinces, which means they are going to have to move to the up-value chain in terms of production and in services. That is a challenge for cities but actually is an opportunity for British companies, because I think our economy is very complementary with high-level advanced manufacturing and very developed service economy, so we really think we can help the cities tackle this challenge. But in terms of main opportunities, the cities are increasing collaboration of other cities in the PRD and have very good links to Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and with each other, which means whether you are looking to serve international, domestic or just the local market, you are looking at great opportunities in these cities.

Q: How about the investment environment?

A: From what we saw, it is a good investment environment. Obviously, there are different sectors of strength in different cities. The main thing I would emphasize was the responsiveness. The officials in all the cities we met were very welcoming to our delegation. I am also very understanding of what are the needs of business.

Q: Do any companies want to invest or launch projects in these cities after the visit?

A: We have two law firms opened in Guangzhou. All the companies are interested doing business in these cities, one of the architecture firms on the mission called Sparch has launched some architectural projects in Zhongshan and ARUP is involved in the projects linked to the bridge connecting Zhuhai and Macao. For the service companies, Cambridge ESOL, which does language testing for universities in the UK, said Jiangmen is their biggest source of applicants, even bigger than Guangzhou. Fosroc, the architectural materials company, said they are very confident and there are new opportunities for them. In other area, we had a manufacturing company, they are already sourcing from China including western PRD. So the answer is yes, definitely business is rising from the visit.

Q: How about the economic and trade cooperation between Guangdong and Britain? How many British enterprises are in Guangdong?

A: The cooperation between Britain and Guangdong is good in a number of aspects. It is beyond just economic and policy relations, there are areas in climate change and environmental protection is closely linked with the infrastructure work we've introduced.

In terms of trade and investment relations, we have good relations. The scope for further investment and trade is huge. The number of British companies invested in Guangdong province is about 70. The most welcoming Guangdong companies in the UK are the leading ones such as Huawei and ZTE. At the moment, Chinese investment in the UK is still very low, compared with North American, Canadian or European investment. Guangdong is the leading province in China, we are expected to see more Guangdong companies to invest in UK.

UK trade with China represents exports to China, accounting for less than three percent of UK's total exports and goods, our export trade is strongly focused on the North American and European markets. The potential for us to increase our exports and services and goods to China is great. We are trying to introduce areas like Jiangmen which almost everybody in the UK has never heard of before.

Q: What do you think of Guangdong's low carbon economy development?

A: I think Guangdong has a real challenge in the low carbon economy area. Guangdong's performance is good in terms of carbon intensity of Guangdong's production and services. But as production and huge investment in capacity and economic output increasing, even if you reduce carbon intensity you still risk seeing increased emissions. I think they need to keep working on this at all levels and it is an area where we can continue to work together.

I think there is a remarkable development in the focus of officials at different levels and on the need to tackle climate change. During this trip, I visited a company which is very active in applying networking with solar technology. There are big companies applying efficient processes, but there are still lots of small companies needed to face the challenge.

Q: What's your plan of promoting a friendly relationship between Guangdong and the UK?

A: I am responsible for six provinces in the Consulate General. I have to make sure I do my very best to promote good relations between these six provinces and the UK. That means it involves trade investment relationship, education, science and innovation work between universities and institutions. We welcome students to study in the UK and tourism in both directions as well.

Q: What impressed you most in Guangzhou and what tourist attraction would you recommend?

A: Guangzhou is not sufficiently recognized as a tourist destination. Maybe there are lots of tourists coming here, but if you look at the available guidebooks, information of the city are quite limited. The English guidebooks are often of two or three pages, the Chinese guidebooks don抰 always pick out Guangzhou as a tourist destination. Lots of people come here for business, for the Canton Fair probably. They won't see too much beyond their hotel and the fair site.

What I found most interesting is walking through the maze of old buildings just north of Shamian, I think walking through the center of Guangzhou, the area where the old building was occupied by the Communist Party in 1920s, is interesting. I like the mix of architectures of modern style, traditional Cantonese style, and also western styles. I do hope the landmark modernizations continue, but I also hope the traditional buildings are well preserved and continue to be used for commercial purposes.

Q: What do you think of Cantonese food?

A: Actually my wife likes Cantonese food very much, She couldn't eat any other Chinese food except for Cantonese food when she first arrived here. She likes the freshness, and the dishes are not oily and are not spicy. For myself, I like simple food, I don't like elaborate banquets. The food that really impressed me has been Cantonese soups.


Editor: Miranda
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