UK signs stem cells, smart grids research deals with China
BEIJING THE government said on Tuesday it had signed deals with China to research stem cells and smart grids, after Finance Minister George Osborne held talks with officials in Beijing aimed at attracting investment.
Osborne’s two-day visit to China was primarily focused on taking forward plans to make London a key trading hub for the yuan currency and persuading Chinese companies to invest in British infrastructure projects.
But the British embassy in Beijing refused to comment on the outcome of his talks with officials including Vice Premier Wang Qishan — China’s top finance official — after Osborne left Beijing on Tuesday afternoon for Tokyo.
The first deal signed focused on joint research in the field of smart grids — electricity networks that can track the behaviour of users to monitor and deliver supplies more efficiently — the embassy said in a statement.
The other agreement pledged up to £770,000 worth of joint investment into stem cell research.
Osborne also held talks with the heads of the nation’s sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation and ICBC — the largest bank in the world — as well as Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of China’s central bank.
His Beijing visit came after a stop-over in Hong Kong, where he announced Britain had agreed to partner with the Chinese territory to develop the City of London as a major offshore centre of trade in China’s currency.
Hong Kong is the world’s only officially designated offshore yuan trading centre, but Britain is keen to make London — the heart of European banking — the second such market.
China and Britain agreed in September to work towards this goal, and Osborne on Monday announced the launch of a joint private-sector London-Hong Kong forum to support Beijing’s efforts to develop the offshore market for the yuan.
The new forum will examine ways Britain and Hong Kong can streamline clearing and settlement systems, boost market liquidity and develop new yuan-denominated products.
Osborne’s China trip was also aimed at attracting investment into British infrastructure, just months after the government identified more than 500 projects it wants built as part of plans to boost the economy.
These include roads, railways, airport capacity, power stations, waste facilities and broadband networks.
To date, none of China’s state-owned enterprises have made significant investments in Britain, but Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing last year bought utility firm Northumbrian Water for $3.9 billion.
“We welcome further Chinese investment in UK infrastructure opportunities in the coming decade,” Osborne said in a statement ahead of the visit.