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Chinese slowdown to hurt Britain via indirect trade and financial links

[LONDON] Britain could suffer if China's economy slows sharply, due in large part to knock-on effects on mutual trading partners and links between the two countries'financial sectors, a Bank of England report said on Friday.

If Chinese growth slowed to 5 per cent from 6 per cent over the next few quarters, British growth would likely slow by around 0.1 per cent, the report said.

That is one third of the potential impact from an equivalent slowing in the euro zone but four times larger than in 1990.

China accounts for more than 17 per cent of world growth and its imports represent around 10 per cent of global trade. An apparent slowdown in the country's rapid rate of growth has been at the source of concerns about the global economy which have unnerved financial markets in recent months. "Our best guess is that these estimates are likely to understate the overall impact, particularly in the event of a sharp slowdown in China, where the spillovers to other countries and through financial links would probably be larger than our linear model would suggest," the report written by Ambrogio Cesa-Bianchi and Kate Stratford at the BoE said.

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While less than 4 per cent of British exports go to China, exports to China represent just under 10 per cent of total goods exports for the United States and the euro zone, Britain's main trading partners, so indirect trade links with China are"potentially sizeable." Meanwhile, the spillovers to Britain from its financial linkages with China could be "significant," the report said.

Only 1.6 per cent of British-owned banks' foreign exposure is to mainland Chinese banks, but that rises to 16 per cent when including Hong Kong.

A sharp slowing in China could also create uncertainty about the global economic outlook, potentially hurting sentiment and asset prices, as shown by recent financial market turbulence, the report said. "Any shock to the Chinese growth outlook might be expected to have significant effects on the United Kingdom and other countries through global sentiment and risk aversion." The one saving grace for Britain is that a further slowdown in China would likely hurt commodity prices, given China now accounts for over 10 per cent of world oil demand and roughly 50 per cent of appetite for copper, the report said.

That would help Britain's growth, as the country is a net importer of those goods and given that British companies would see their energy and other input costs fall.

However, a recent fall in commodity prices has not yet had a material impact on British growth, however, with the economy off to a patchy start in 2016 and the government this week sharply cutting its growth forecasts for the next few years.

REUTERS

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