By Claire West

Prime Minister David Cameron said today that UK firms should seek to explore opportunities for expanding their business in China, the world’s second largest economy and the UK’s ninth largest export market.

The Prime Minister said:

“This is a vitally important trade mission. Our message is simple: Britain is now open for business, has a very business-friendly government, and wants to have a much, much stronger relationship with China.

“I’m delighted we’ve got such a wide range of institutions and businesses coming with us. This visit will mark another step to making Britain the successful, open, trading and pro-business country that I want it to be."

The Prime Minister will this week lead the biggest ever UK Government delegation to China, including Chancellor George Osborne, Business Secretary Vince Cable, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne and Education Secretary Michael Gove. They will be accompanied by a large business delegation comprising leaders from the worlds of business, culture, arts and academia.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“Domestic consumption in China is growing, the middle class is expanding, and Chinese companies are looking to internationalise. This brings a huge increase in opportunities for UK firms given that they are globally competitive in services, advanced manufacturing and engineering, ICT, life sciences and creative industries — all areas where Chinese demand is growing significantly.
“Like in any market it pays to do your research, and UK Trade & Investment, which has a network throughout China, can help companies find the opportunities that will help their businesses grow.”

The three days of trade talks will begin with Joint Economic Trade Commission talks on Monday led by Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chinese Minister for Commerce Chen Deming. On Tuesday, there will be the Economic and Financial Dialogue and a UK-China summit. On Wednesday, there will be a Business Summit, and on Thursday Dr. Cable will meet regional mayors to look at expanding ties throughout China.

UK goods exports to China rose 44% in the first eight months of 2010, to £4.5 billion.

Illustrating the potential of the Chinese market, last week, Airbus announced the sale to China of over one hundred planes, a deal which will be worth in excess of $5 billion to the UK economy.

The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) forecasts that China will increase its commercial airfleet by 3,796 planes by the end of 2028. China currently has 166 commercial airports, set to increase to 244 by 2020. The biggest of these airports, Beijing International Airport, was designed by British architects Foster + Partners to be ready in time for the Beijing Olympics.