Firms look to China

CHINA’S continuing rapid economic growth offers new opportunities for Suffolk companies looking for markets abroad, businesses were told yesterday.

Around 50 business delegates took part in a free Suffolk County Council-hosted seminar in Ipswich yesterday, promoting the benefits of trade with China.

It heard that that at the moment, just a fraction of the county’s businesses, around 50 in all, currently export to the world’s second largest economy, but there are many opportunities for small businesses as well as large ones.

The luxury market and increasing demand for services and for training were just some of the openings highlighted. There were also opportunities here to encourage Chinese investors to back East Anglian projects, they heard.

Councillor Judy Terry, Portfolio Holder for the Greenest County, Economy and Skills, said she got the idea for the conference after attending a similar event in Cambridge.

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“I wasn’t aware of all the opportunities,” she said.

“We believe the growth in our economy is going to come from small and medium-sized businesses.”

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University Campus Suffolk was already developing links with China and have realised it is a potential market for it, and there were also opportunities for the fire service to help with training, she said.

The event, supported by the Chamber of Commerce, the China Britain Business Council (CBBC) and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), looked at the importance of seeing China as a continent, and focusing attention on a smaller city or a particular region.

Opportunities for export can be found in all sectors, from the energy sector and manufacturing to the creative industries, legal and professional services, as well as consumer products, such as food and drink.

In the first three months of 2011, UK exports to China were up 28.8% on the previous year. In 2010, 63% of exports from the East of England to the emerging BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) markets went to China.

Guest speaker Chris Cotton, Director of the China Britain Business Council (CBBC), said fostering and nurturing relationships was important, and smaller cities could be more welcoming.

“There’s a huge range of demand for professional services across China and also across all sectors,” he said.

Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk County Councils are working jointly to attract Chinese investment, boost tourism and help companies export to China.

John Dugmore, Chief Executive of Suffolk Chamber, said: “The Chamber was delighted to be part of today’s County Council organized China Opportunities event.

“Given the difficult trading conditions the UK finds itself in due to the going problems facing the global economy, it is clear that net exports will have to be the main engine of Britain’s economic recovery.

“With this in mind, the Chamber working with partners such as UKTi, are playing their part by way of our Suffolk International Trade group. Free to join and participate, this group brings together businesses from across the County who are already actively exporting or are wishing to explore opportunities overseas for the first time.

“Concentrating on issues such as trade finance, overseas promotion and how to break into new overseas markets by way of linking business leaders up, so that they can exchange ideas, and swap knowledge, is truly a valuable asset to our international trade group members and events like today’s underpin and support this type of activity.”

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