Region set to strengthen its position as only UK region operating trade surplus with China.
Business and civic leaders from Greater Birmingham outlined over £1 billion of investment opportunities to some of China’s most senior financiers, developers and institutional funders in London on Wednesday.
The Chinese delegation is in London as part of President Xi Jinping’s state visit, with Greater Birmingham’s presentation part of the official UK programme.
A group of Chinese decision-makers and influencers were shown details of key investment schemes in the region that are worth more than £1 billion combined, including the HS2 terminals at UK Central in Solihull and Birmingham Curzon. Birmingham Smithfield – a £500 million retail and leisure hub to cover 14 hectares in the city centre – was also showcased.
The event, jointly organised with UK Government, was attended by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin MP. Greater Birmingham’s representatives included Sir Albert Bore (Leader of Birmingham City Council), Cllr Bob Sleigh (Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority and Leader of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council), Mark Rogers (Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council) and Waheed Nazir (Director of Regeneration) plus Neil Rami (Chief Executive of inward investment agency Marketing Birmingham).
Cllr Bob Sleigh commented: “Greater Birmingham and Solihull have a long-standing and very successful relationship with China. Since the region hosted the then Premier – Wen Jiabao – back in 2011, we have done some serious business with the Chinese; we’re the only part of the UK to operate a trade surplus with China, currently standing at £2.7 billion. Our exports are worth £5.3 billion, twelve times the value of exports from London and more than three times the value of exports from the North West.
“Here in Solihull, UK Central is the perfect location for Chinese investors looking to make a significant impact in the UK market. One of the largest and most exciting development opportunities in Europe, it is home to many national economic drivers – including renowned events venue the NEC, £150 million lifestyle complex Resorts World, and a multi-million pound Jaguar Land Rover plant.
“With Birmingham Airport also based here – which has been offering direct routes to China for two years running – and a new HS2 terminal due to be built, the potential for UK Central is huge.”
The meeting in London follows the University of Birmingham signing a research co-operation agreement with Beijing Jiaotong University in China to create a joint international high-speed railway research laboratory. It also recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding on railway research and education with the Chinese rolling stock manufacturer, CSR Sifang, which makes China’s high-speed trains.
Sir Albert Bore said: “This event follows ongoing dialogue and meetings with Chinese business leaders spanning several years, which has led to major investments including Changan’s move to the region this year.
“It’s clear that HS2 provides one of the UK’s greatest opportunities for foreign investors, and we intend to realise its full potential here in Greater Birmingham. As the heart of the UK’s future rail industry, we have so much to offer Chinese investors. Greater Birmingham will be the only UK region to have two HS2 terminals, along with HS2’s construction headquarters, while the National College for High Speed Rail will be producing a new generation of talented engineers here.”
The Transport Secretary commented: “We are investing record amounts in transport infrastructure to bring the country together and secure our future prosperity. Greater Birmingham is an excellent example of this sort of investment taking effect. Only last month Birmingham New Street station opened after a £750 million redevelopment, which is creating better journeys for passengers as well as having a huge impact on businesses and the local community. Greater Birmingham will be at the heart of the HS2 network, creating huge opportunities for jobs, growth and investment.”
Greater Birmingham has secured 47 Chinese foreign direct investment projects during the last 10 years, creating almost 2,700 new jobs and safeguarding a further 1,700. Investors have included automotive giants Changan and SAIC Motor Corporation, plus NVC Lighting, China’s largest lighting manufacturer.
Neil Rami added: “Greater Birmingham is working with, and securing investment from, more Chinese companies than any other UK region. This presentation has enabled Greater Birmingham to grow our already strong economic ties with this market.
“As well as our strong record in attracting Chinese foreign investment and direct routes from Birmingham Airport, the region also benefits from attracting thousands of Chinese visitors each year. In 2013, Chinese tourists visiting the West Midlands spent an average of £3,566 per visit, eight times the overall average spent by overseas visitors in the region.
“Meanwhile, about one in three international students studying in Birmingham is from China, with business-related subjects the most popular undertaken.
“China is set to become the world’s biggest economy and it is crucial for Greater Birmingham’s continued economic success that we continue to attract more Chinese investment in the future.”