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British companies want more Belt and Road involvement

By Cecily Liu in London | China Daily UK | Updated: 2018-02-01 01:59
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British companies are banking on Prime Minister Theresa May's China visit securing political endorsement for their participation in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

Banks including HSBC and Standard Chartered, engineering consultants Arup and Mott MacDonald, and a wide range of other British companies hope to provide services for infrastructure projects in countries in the area covered by the initiative.

"This is a great opportunity to raise our profile in China and to share and learn lessons on future potential partnerships," said Wang Aijuan, a director at Mott MacDonald and a member of the prime minister's delegation.

Hilary Lau, from law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, agreed.

"Greater understanding and dialogue at the governmental level always assists companies on large-scale and complex projects and investment," he said.

Mott MacDonald has worked on hundreds of Belt and Road projects, advising Chinese companies including Energy China, China General Nuclear, and the China Three Gorges Corporation. Herbert Smith Freehills has offered investment advice to Chinese clients including Silk Road Fund, Poly-GCL Petroleum Group Holdings, and Beijing Gas Group.

City of London policy chairman Catherine McGuinness said she hopes May's visit can create more clarity for British companies' involved in the initiative.

"I'm hoping we will see progress which will enable (British companies) to involve more, and get engaged," she said.

McGuinness stressed the UK's financial services industry has much expertise to offer to Belt and Road projects, including skills in project finance, insurance, and legal services.

The British government is a supporter of the initiative. In December, the government agency UK Export Finance announced 25 billion pounds ($34 billion) of funding to support British companies' exports to Belt and Road projects.

Private-sector activities are also gaining traction. Last year, Standard Chartered bank said it will provide at least $20 billion of finance for Belt and Road projects by 2020. And, in 2017, ICBC Standard Bank launched a Belt and Road index, to help investors monitor opportunities in the 65 countries covered by the initiative.

Jinny Yan, chief China economist at ICBC Standard Bank, said the index is now followed by policy makers, multilateral development banks and institutional investors.

"Not only does it help our clients to make more informed investment and hedging decisions, it also facilitates policy dialogue around the world," said Yan.

Barbara Woodward, the UK's ambassador to China, talked of Britain's interest in the Belt and Road Initiative during a news conference in Beijing ahead of May's visit.

"We see the Belt and Road Initiative as an initiative with great potential and we want to be part of it," she said.

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