By Ben Simmons

Marking the 40th year of ambassadorial ties, 2012 will be an important year for UK- China relations, UK Trade and Investment have said.

The anniversary, along with the London Export Corporation- who pioneered UK-China trade- were celebrated at the annual “Icebreaker” Chinese New Year banquet and the 48 Group Club China awards held in London last night (6 January). Among those who attended included FCO Minister Jeremy Browne, Treasury Minister Lord Sassoon, the Chinese Ambassador to the UK, His Excellency Liu Xiaoming and UK Trade & Investment CEO, Nick Baird.

The 48 Group Club was founded out of the original 48 British companies who forged trade links with China in the 1950s. The club has been described by Chinese President Hu Jintao as “far sighted”.

“I congratulate the 48 Group Club for organising this important event to commemorate landmarks in both trade and diplomatic relations,” said Nick Baird. “China is a key trading partner for the UK. In 2010, the UK exported £7.2 billion worth of goods and services to China and overall UK exports to China increased by 41% making China the UK’s ninth largest export market. But, there is still room for significant improvement. In this Olympic year, UK companies will have a unique opportunity to showcase their goods and services to potential customers from all over the world including China. UK Trade & Investment will be working hard to help British companies explore opportunities in China and other overseas markets.”

Stephen Perry Managing Director of the London Export Corporation and Chairman of the 48 Group Club added:

“We are proud of the role London Export played in facilitating the first exports from the UK to China in the 1950s. It was a significant step and our links with China have remained strong ever since. Today the Club offers an important and often vital network of contacts to those active in China trade and organises activities throughout the UK, as well as taking part in academic and cultural exchanges. The growth of China over the last 30 years means no major company can afford not to have a major strategic approach and partnership with China.”

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