UK businesses eager to join Beijing supply chain expo

By XING YI in London |
Updated: May 27, 2024
Ren Hongbin, chairman of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, speaks at a roadshow of the second China International Supply Chain Expo (CISCE) in London, Britain, May 24, 2024. The roadshow was held here on Friday, attended by more than 150 representatives from British and Chinese business associations, enterprises and media organizations. [Photo/Xinhua]

A supply chain expo set to open in Beijing in November has generated enthusiasm among the business community in the United Kingdom, despite disruptions in global supply chains due to regional conflicts and geopolitical tensions.

During a promotional roadshow in London on Friday, many business leaders, including representatives from the China Britain Business Council, pharma giant AstraZeneca, and the 48 Group Club, expressed willingness to participate in the second edition of the China International Supply Chain Expo.

Ren Hongbin, chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, or CCPIT, the organizer of the expo, led a delegation of Chinese enterprises to the UK and attended the roadshow.

Noting the importance of an unimpeded supply chain, Ren said: "Industrial and supply chains in the economy are like the circulatory system of the human body. Any obstacles or disruptions can slow down or block the flow of lifeblood of the world economy."

Last year, CCPIT hosted the inaugural supply chain expo, the world's first national-level exhibition focused on supply chain partnerships and innovations. The expo saw the participation of 515 enterprises and organizations from 55 countries and regions, and the signing of more than 200 cooperation deals worth more than $20 billion.

According to Ren, around 400 companies, including major UK firms, such as AstraZeneca, HSBC, and Rio Tinto, have confirmed their participation in the second edition expo, which is categorized into six main sections, including advanced manufacturing, smart vehicles, green agriculture, clean energy, digital technology, and healthy life.

The expo aims to provide cooperation opportunities between global enterprises and help companies develop partners alongside the supply chain.

"China and the UK both have comparative advantages in terms of finance, digital technology, artificial intelligence, and other fields. Cooperation between Chinese and British enterprises is conducive to maintaining the resilience and stability of the supply chain of both countries," Ren said.

Sherard Cowper-Coles, chair of the China-Britain Business Council, supported Ren's remarks by highlighting the rapidity of Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi's entry into the electric vehicle market. Remarkably, Xiaomi produced its first electric car just three years after announcing the EV project in 2021.

"It's more efficient to make a car like that in China … it's more efficient to distribute that activity around the world. And that is what this supply chain conference is about," said Cowper-Coles, who had led a delegation to the inaugural expo and will also organize a delegation to attend this year's expo.

Jack Perry Jr, chairman of the 48 Group Club, said the China-UK partnership has enabled both nations to leverage their respective strengths, the UK's innovation, design, and financial services, and China's manufacturing prowess and huge market scale.

In the early 1950s, a group of visionary UK businessmen, led by Jack Perry, leader of the 48 Group, started trading with the newly founded People's Republic of China despite a Western embargo, and the bilateral trade volume over the past 70 years has risen from zero to over $100 billion in 2023.

"Together, they can drive global progress and prosperity," said Perry Jr. "The UK-China relationship is vital for the integrity and efficiency of global supply chains. By resolving current challenges through diversification, technology, and open dialogue, we can ensure a resilient and prosperous future."

AstraZeneca, the biopharmaceutical company, has built three factories in Qingdao, Wuxi, and Taizhou, China, and has invested in many Chinese companies within its supply chain. Additionally, the company selected Shanghai as the location for its fifth global strategic center in February, joining its other centers in the UK, the United States, and Sweden.

Sheena Behn, vice president for the company's vaccine and oncology supply chains, said: "Last year, we had a big presence at the supply chain expo. We celebrated our 30-year presence in China and also announced various investments.

"We will be present in the second supply chain expo in November in Beijing, where we'll be very happy to talk further about our supply chain growth in China and how we will be building sustainability into our supply chains of the future," she added.

Zheng Zeguang, China's ambassador to the UK, noted that the government pledged in March to further shorten the negative list for foreign investment and to abolish or reduce market access restrictions in sectors such as manufacturing, finance, telecommunications, and healthcare.

"The message is that we are not only to do a good job within our own country but also will open our door even wider to international investors and businesses," he said.

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