MPs warn Government on China trade
The Government must urgently "up its game" to stop Britain lagging behind countries such as Germany when it comes to securing trade deals with China, an influential Commons committee has warned.
MPs said it is "deeply worrying" that competitors are racing ahead at a time when the UK should be enjoying an advantage because its areas of expertise match China's economic priorities.
Although an agreement has been struck to increase bilateral trade to 100 billion US dollars (£61 billion) by 2015, that "pales in comparison" to the German target of 284 billion US dollars (£174 billion) over the same period, the Business Innovation and Skills Committee said.
In a report, it warned China will look elsewhere if the UK does not react quickly and a "golden opportunity to deliver a step change to our volume of trade" will be lost.
China has drawn up a five-year plan targeting key areas for development in its economy, including professional services, finance, information technology and design - all areas that Britain could be capitalising on, the report said.
MPs acknowledged there had been recent improvements in the UK/China trading relationship and praised a trade delegation to China led by Prime Minister David Cameron last year as a "demonstrable success with tangible outcomes for business".
But the committee urged the Government not to see it as a "one-off", arguing it should become an annual event.
It also suggested the development of trade links would depend on regular contact between the "political elites of both countries".
But the Government must also tackle technical problems that are hampering trade, particularly the issue of visas, the committee urged.
It raised "deep concerns" about the lack of awareness among ministers over the criticism of the UK visa regime in China.