UK reportedly exploring free trade agreement with China

Philip Hammond: UK-China relations are 'more important than ever'

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond is rumoured to have started negotiations with China over a multi-billion pound free trade agreement (FTA), only possible once Brexit is realised. 

The deal, still very much in its infancy, could possibly see China reduce its trade barriers for UK goods, including meat, in exchange for the UK granting the world’s second-largest economy increased access for its manufactured products.

Speaking to the BBC’s economics editor Kamal Ahmed on the eve of a G20 Finance Ministers’ meeting in Chengdu, Hammond said it was time to explore “new opportunities” once the UK was free to trade with the world.

When asked by Ahmed if that meant the possibility of an FTA with China, Hammond is reported to have said: “Definitely, I could see such a thing.

According to a recent export talk, led by UK levy board AHDB, the absence of FTAs puts UK meat products at a disadvantage on the global stage. China is also expected to be the world’s largest food importer by 2018, according to the National Bureau of Statistics in China. And the growing demand for food will surely make Britain’s food sector eager for Hammond to get a lucrative deal done with China.

Last week the chancellor released a statement on his objectives for the meeting with G20 ministers and affirmed his commitment to “promoting British business opportunities”. He added that the UK was “open for business”.

We have built a strong economic relationship with China and as Chinese investments into the UK continue to diversify and as UK exports grow, Sino-UK relations are more important than ever,” he said.

A spokesman for the UK Department for Business, Innovation & Skills said the government would not comment further on the issue.

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