Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk county councils sign agreement to boost links with China

THREE county councils in the eastern region have signed an agreement to work together in creating long-term opportunities for local businesses to trade and operate internationally, in particular with China.

Suffolk County Council, Essex County Council and Norfolk County Council signed the agreement to promote links between businesses, universities and industry associations and to increase two-way exchanges of trade, investment, knowledge and expertise.

The agreement will see all three county councils work together over a two-year project to target and attract new inward investment from China, focusing on the region’s strengths in the energy sector.

It builds on the partnership already established between the counties in April 2011 when the three council leaders signed a Memorandum of Understanding pledging to work together to provide the skills base that businesses in the energy sector will need to realise their growth potential.

The new agreement will also see the counties develop joint projects to help businesses increase their exports to China, increase cultural exchanges with China, help county schools stimulate children to learn Chinese and to learn more about Chinese culture, help our universities and vocational colleges to form profitable links with counterparts in China as well as attract more Chinese tourists to the three counties.

Essex will offer Suffolk County Council, Norfolk County Council and the Suffolk and Norfolk Energy Alliance (NSEA) the opportunity to utilise Essex County Council’s relationships with the Jiangsu Provincial People’s Government and to use the Essex office in Nanjing to identify and target potential inward investors in a cost -effective way.

They will also be able to benefit from the presence in Essex of the Jiangsu Provincial People’s Government Representative to the UK who, being from the Jiangsu Department of Commerce, can help identify potential investors, encourage them to locate in the Essex/Suffolk/Norfolk area, help them navigate the Jiangsu outward investment regulatory process, and provide them with additional support and encouragement to locate in the three counties.

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Kevin Bentley, Essex County Council’s cabinet member for economic development, said: “I am delighted to have been able to put my name to this agreement today and help pave the way for a prosperous future in inward investment across the eastern regions.

“The relationship we at Essex County Council have been lucky enough to forge with the Jiangsu Province in China has enabled us to showcase the opportunities Essex has for investment.

“Having the opportunity to now share this success with our eastern counties, I look forward to working together to build an exciting and rewarding future for us all.”

Judy Terry, Suffolk County Council’s portfolio holder for the Greenest County, economy and skills, said: “This is an excellent step forward for all three counties. China’s rapidly expanding economy offers many new business opportunities for Suffolk companies looking to tap into international markets.

“We recognise that China has become the engine of economic growth in the global economy and feel very strongly that sought after Suffolk products, such as clean energy, our creative industries and food and drink, have strong international appeal.

“We’re therefore extremely proud to be confirming our partnership with Essex and Norfolk and taking positive action to ensure that we help Suffolk businesses to prosper.”

Anne Stewart, Norfolk County Council’s portfolio holder for Economic Development, added: “It is clear that the opportunities to attract inward investment from China are growing and the huge population represents a massive market for our own goods and services. Opportunities for joint ventures and partnerships in China are also growing with some Norfolk companies already having successfully trading arrangements, so joint working with our neighbouring counties is a good place to start.”