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New UK finance minister to talk up trade on China visit

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New finance minister Philip Hammond will on Friday meet Chinese business leaders and officials to drum up support for Britain's economy ahead of talks with G20 counterparts in Chengdu.

[LONDON] New finance minister Philip Hammond will on Friday meet Chinese business leaders and officials to drum up support for Britain's economy ahead of talks with G20 counterparts in Chengdu.

Former foreign minster Mr Hammond will be joined by business leaders as he seeks to reassure Chinese investors and politicians that "Britain is open for business" despite voting last month to leave the European Union.

China President Xi Jinping had said that he hoped Britain would remain in the bloc to promote the "deepening development of China-EU ties."

Mr Hammond will visit Beijing and Hong Kong "to promote British business opportunities, with a strong emphasis on the financial services sector," the treasury said.

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He will then meet finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the so-called Group of 20, which brings together the biggest industrialised and emerging economies, in Chengdu on Saturday and Sunday.

Senior figures from some of Britain's biggest financial services companies, including HSBC, Virgin Money, the London Stock Exchange and Standard Life will join the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr Hammond "will make clear that the UK government wants to build on the 'golden era' declared during President Xi's visit to the UK last year, and the UK's decision to leave the EU will not affect the global partnership between the UK and China," the treasury said.

Britain receives more Chinese investment than any other European country, and exports around £18 billion (S$32.1 billion) of products in return.

The visit is expected to kick-start a series of visits to Britain's key economic partners, "aimed at showcasing to foreign investors the new opportunities presented by the UK's decision to leave the European Union," said the statement.

Liam Fox, the minister charged with securing new trade deals for Britain, revealed that he had opened "very fruitful" trade talks with Canada on Friday, and was reported to be heading to the United States next week.

New Prime Minister Theresa May also discussed a trade agreement with Australia in a phone call with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Saturday, her Downing Street office said.

The G20 talks will likely be dominated by Britain's shock decision to leave the EU in last month's referendum.

AFP

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