Britain's open to foreign investment, trade minister Fox tells China

Britain's open to foreign investment, trade minister Fox tells China

British trade minister Liam Fox said on Wednesday it was too soon to seek membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact.

Britain's International Trade Secretary Liam Fox speaks during an interview at the residence o
FILE PHOTO: Britain's International Trade Secretary Liam Fox speaks during an interview at the residence of the British embassy in Beijing, China January 3, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

BEIJING: British trade minister Liam Fox said on Wednesday that London would continue to welcome foreign investment, after a U.S. panel rejected a Chinese acquisition of a U.S. money transfer company on national security concerns.

Fox was on a visit to China, the latest installment in long-running economic talks between China and Britain, which has taken on new importance for Britain as it looks to re-invent itself as a global trading nation after leaving the European Union in 2019.

The U.S. rejection of China's Ant Financial's acquisition of MoneyGram International Inc is the most high-profile Chinese deal to be torpedoed under the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Asked whether Britain would serve as an alternative destination for such Chinese investment, Fox told Reuters in an interview that he hoped the investment relationship would "work in two directions", but that Britain would remain open.

"Of course, we would look, as other countries would do, at our security issues in terms of investment. But the UK has traditionally been an open country, welcoming of foreign direct investment. And we'll continue to do that," Fox said.

He did not comment specifically on the U.S. panel decision.

China is one of the countries with which Britain hopes to sign a free trade pact once it leaves the EU, and London and Beijing have been keen to show that Britain's withdrawal from the bloc will not affect ties.

Fox said that the issue of China's service sector openness was a "big issue" for Britain, but that there were more options than a post-Brexit free trade agreement (FTA) to get Beijing to open, including specific service sector agreements and mutual recognition deals.

"There are a whole range of tools in the box. And people tend to talk as though an FTA is the only tool we have available in terms of trade liberalization. It's not," he said.

The focus on a "Golden Era" of relations, trumpeted by China and Britain in 2015 when then-prime minister David Cameron hosted a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, has cooled under Cameron's successor, Theresa May.

In 2016, May caused a diplomatic spat by unexpectedly deciding to delay approval of a partly-Chinese funded nuclear power project. She later granted it, but not before drawing criticism from Beijing.

May is expected to visit China later this month accompanied by a business delegation, diplomatic and business sources have told Reuters, though the trip has not been formally confirmed.

TOO SOON TO SEEK TPP MEMBERSHIP

When asked about reports stating that Britain had started informal talks about joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, Fox said it was too soon to seek TPP membership.

"We don't know what the success of the TPP is going to look like, because it isn't yet negotiated. So it would be a little bit premature for us to be wanting to sign up to something that we're not sure what the final details will look like," Fox said.

"However, we have said that we want to be an open outward-looking country, and therefore it would be foolish for us to rule out any particular outcomes for the future. So we'll keep an open mind, and we'll want to talk to our global trading partners."

Source: Reuters

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