THE business benefits of speeding up clearance and entry processes for Chinese visitors to the UK has been raised by in Parliament by a Suffolk MP.

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In a debate on international trade, Waveney’s Peter Aldous asked Home Secretary Theresa May for a progress report on the issue, adding that Chinese business visitors, tourists and investors were a vital means of boosting the economy.

“China is undoubtedly a hugely important market for tourism and investment in the offshore energy sector,” he said.

“The coast, the market towns and landscape in the Waveney Valley are what many overseas visitors imagine England is all about. We should take advantage of this and encourage Chinese visitors, which will in turn boost jobs, trade, investment and growth in the local economy.”

Mrs May said that the Government had identified China as a priority market, adding: “We will continue to look at what we do to ensure that our clear message is that Britain is open for business and has a functioning visa system that ensures that those whom we wish to welcome to the UK can come.”

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, who has been working with Mr Aldous on the issue, said: “The Chinese market has great potential for business in our county and therefore we welcome the Home Secretary’s commitment to ensuring those coming here to do business are able to do so under programmes like the priority scheme.

“Suffolk and the UK are open for business and we look forward to doing more global business over the year ahead.” he added. Keith Brown, chief executive of Visit East Anglia, which has also been lobbying on the issue said: “We warmly welcome the Government’s recognition that the inbound Chinese visitor market is an important one and that through Visit Britain, it is investing funds to promote Britain and Suffolk to this important emerging market.

“However, we believe the most significant barriers to growth include the cost burdens of providing individual visas to Chinese tourists and the UK’s non participation in the Schengen Visa programme.”

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