With the debate over how to stimulate UK economic growth still raging, one area we can ill afford to neglect is strengthening our trading relationships through commercial diplomacy.
Emerging economies are expected to account for over 50 per cent of global growth over the next five years. Some people view this change in the economic landscape as a threat to our future prosperity but I see it as an opportunity for closer partnership.
The City has always thrived in the face of intense competition for business. London is a natural location for trade and investment with rapidly developing countries but we must continue to make the case.
That is why I will be leading a senior City business delegation to China later this week. As the world’s second largest economy, China is already a key player on the international stage.
But by sharing our experience and expertise we can help China overcome bottlenecks and help it develop a thriving financial industry to serve Chinese companies’ domestic needs and support international expansion.
Just as London is the natural point of entry for international firms looking to access European markets, Chinese centres want to become financial gateways to Asia and beyond.
Hong Kong is already established among the top three world financial centres, alongside London and New York, while the State Council and the Shanghai municipal government are taking steps towards realising the vision of Shanghai becoming China’s international financial centre and shipping hub by 2020.
The growth of new financial centres will ultimately benefit established centres such as London: as the size of the global industry expands, we will see new business opportunities forged on the basis of strong links between financial centres.
To this end, I look forward to signing a renewal of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Shanghai Municipal Government, to strengthen our longstanding relationship.
The Prime Minister and Chinese Premier Wen agreed last November to work towards doubling bilateral trade to $100bn (£50bn) a year by 2015.
China’s dramatic development presents considerable opportunities for UK firms, especially in high-value projects. Huge sums will need to be invested into infrastructure schemes to keep pace with domestic consumption.
Michael Bear is Lord Mayor of the City of London