Monday 13 July 2020 4:03 am

As Britain embarks on a new trading chapter, the City is looking east

William Russell is Lord Mayor of London.

The City of London’s international interconnectedness has always been fundamental to its success as one of the world’s leading financial centres. 

And with more than 250 foreign banks here employing tens of thousands of people, I welcome the recent easing of travel restrictions to and from the UK as another step towards the City’s Covid-19 recovery.

As the elected head of the City of London Corporation, I serve as a global ambassador for the UK-based financial and professional services industry. So despite the recent travel ban, my programme of international engagement has continued at full speed (albeit virtually) as we look to work with our partners around the world to kickstart the global economy — with a particular focus on industry-defining trends such as fintech and green finance. 

There has been a distinct Asia-Pacific flavour to proceedings. After my recent virtual “visit” to Japan, this week I will be speaking to key business and political leaders in Singapore, and then Australia later this month. This reflects just how important this rapidly growing region is to the UK, as we embark upon this new chapter in our trading history.

The EU will of course remain a hugely important trading partner in financial services long into the future. But as we reconfigure our relationship with our friends across the channel, the time is right for Britain to seize the moment and take opportunities that exist elsewhere as well.

The recent opening of the UK’s trade negotiations with Japan, Australia and New Zealand represent major opportunities for our world-leading financial services sector, as does Britain’s stated desire to join the 11-state Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) — a group that is forecast to account for around a fifth of the global economy by 2050.

Japan is already our third biggest financial services trading partner, but we have the potential to do much more. Meanwhile Singapore, as a signatory to both CPTPP and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), represents a gateway to some of the fastest-growing economies anywhere in the world, and is a golden opportunity for UK fintech firms to reach a huge new market.

Next week, my attention will shift to Australia, with whom we are already working with closely to shape the future of the financial services sector. Australia recently launched open banking — an area in which the UK has already enjoyed considerable success — and I anticipate we will be sharing our expertise over the course of the week. This will be supported by the launch of the City Corporation’s own exploratory report, which frames the potential of a closer relationship between our two countries.

As we recover from the pandemic, not only will the UK unlock a raft of new opportunities by renewing its engagement with old and new friends in the Asia-Pacific region, but our expertise and innovation will act as a stimulus for broader regional and global economic growth. 

I’m glad that we are now making those first steps. Such is the scale of our future potential collaboration that together we can even shape the development of the financial services industry itself, especially where we have common ground on areas such as fintech and green.

It’s time to build our way towards that new future and lay the foundations for a more resilient global economy in the years to come.

Main image credit: Getty

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