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Former Minister Counsellor ( Commercial) of the Chinese Embassy Zhou Xiaoming, was the centrepiece of the CBBC/48 Group/CCC Christmas Reception on December 15.

He was introduced by the current Minister Counsellor Jin Xu, who reminded us of the great advances made in the UK-China relationship in 2016 and said that no matter what happened with Brexit and President Trump, China remained very positive about creating and extending the Golden era of UK- China relations.

This followed a warm welcome from Bank of China Assistant General Manager, Wang Huabin. The bank hosted this event on the top floor of their splendid building.

Then Zhou Xiaoming gave us a splendid talk which benefited the insights gained from his important position in Geneva.

First he reviewed the opportunities for bilateral progress between the USA and China and expressed the hope that the USA would work to further develop the relationship. There appear to be challenges and China will address them all, he said. But it seems the main point now is to wait for Trump to become president and start to move forward.

He noted that China and the USA have a very deep responsibility to maintain world peace and prosperity and should cooperate well to achieve this.

Then he explored the positive role the UK had played in the EU for good relations with China and regretted the UK would not be able to play that role in the future.

He talked about the internal challenges of the EU and said that Brexit needed to provide for UK access to the EU if it wanted to continue to attract Chinese companies who valued EU access from their UK operations

He then went on talk about the UK-China opportunities in the future and said China would welcome an enhanced bilateral relationship when the UK could approach that issue. He felt that China would continue to see many opportunities although the Hinckley Plant delay had brought to China’s attention the fact that the UK government had changed.

For the UK and China to take advantage of new opportunities Mr. Zhou proposed that a feasibility study on a free-trade agreement be initiated without delay. A new generation FTA would enable the two countries to gain improved access to each other’s markets, allowing free movement of goods, services and people.

Mr. Zhou also suggested that both countries enhance cooperation in innovation. He told the audience that China regards innovation as key to its future economic success, and has launched ambitious programmes such as Made In China 2025 and Internet +. UK companies would hugely benefit from working in partnership in an area where both countries have much to offer to each other. He suggested that the two countries conclude and implement an agreement on strategic partnership in innovation.

Mr. Zhou went on to address another area that would significantly impact the world and present enormous business opportunities to UK companies– the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). He stated that while contributing its expertise and finance, British businesses have much to gain from working with their Chinese counterparts in countries along the new Silk Road. He proposed that the two governments conclude a MOU on cooperation in these countries to support the efforts of their respective companies.

All in all we were treated to a special talk from a highly experienced diplomat.

At the end he was awarded the 48 Group Club Lifetime Award for his contributions to Sino-British Trade and Investment.

A Christmas ending to a wonderful relationship of over five years.