WITH Prime Minister Theresa May in China for trade talks, Professor Jia Liu of the University of Salford Business School discusses how the North West could benefit from any trade deals and investment.
Professor Liu, an economist who is an expert in the Chinese economy, said: “As the world’s second-biggest economy celebrates unprecedented growth, it is of great importance to understand in what ways China’s growing economy and power might help development of the Northern Powerhouse.
“An example of how this can be achieved is the £130M ‘China Cluster’ at Manchester Airports Group's £800m business park project. This joint venture between Manchester Airports Group (MAG), Beijing Construction Engineering Group, the Greater Manchester Pension Fund and Argent will aim to lure Far East firms to Airport City.
“Based on two campuses in the Airport City development – Wuhan Square and Shenzhen Gardens – it will offer a wide range of high quality office premises to Chinese businesses establishing themselves in the UK.
“Hainan Airlines has also scheduled direct flights from Manchester to Beijing – with only London boasting a similar direct route.
“Such initiatives will be of vital importance in the light of Brexit and what follows. Chinese investors have said that they are not that concerned about Brexit and were keen to strengthen trade ties.
“Given China’s policy of investing in UK infrastructure projects, perhaps the railways in the North might also benefit from a similar initiative. If the North is once more to become a commercial and industrial hub, a Northern Powerhouse, its rail network certainly needs to be developed. If we are to thrive, we must create fast rail links across the Pennines as quickly as possible, especially since recent government pronouncements have indicated that planned improvements in northern railways will not become effective much sooner than 2030.
“China’s ambitious outward investment initiative, The One Belt and One Road Initiative, is intended to improve the infrastructure of overland and maritime routes and drive trade and capital flows between the East and West. The direct flights between Manchester and Beijing might be considered an extension of this enterprise, and surely the next logical step would be to develop a commercial and industrial hub based on a modern rail network that the region signally lacks?”