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Friday, 31 July 2009

Friday Guest Blog: Forging links with the Far East

by Dr Alan Gerrard

Last week I was delighted to welcome a top-level Chinese delegation to Trafford.

During their visit the delegates from Nanning signed a Memorandum of Economic Cooperation with Trafford Council and opened a liaison office for their city’s Chamber of Commerce. They have afforded me the honour of becoming the first Secretary of the Liaison Office.

They also had meetings with, Greater Manchester Chamber, the Chamber’s International Trade team, Manchester Solutions and MIDAS.

The delegation visited Trafford Park, Media City Visitors’ Centre and of course Manchester United where they also hosted a Reception one evening for key business leaders and politicians.
They were very impressed with what they saw and this visit has laid the basis for long-term links between Trafford and Nanning. A number of strategic actions and decisions were made, directed towards progressing trade and investment between us as well as identifying some more immediate business opportunities.

Despite the global downturn, it is still vital that we forge trade links with China. The Chinese economy has been growing at a fantastic rate and although this has slowed somewhat in the current economic climate, it still continues at an impressive rate.

Nanning is the capital city of Guangxi Province in Southern China. The city is an education and development hotbed, with eight further education centres. It has great economic importance as the gateway to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community.

The link with Guangxi began when I was invited by the United Nations in 2007 to give a keynote speech at a Global Investment Forum in the neighbouring city of Liuzhou. I was asked to talk about the evolution of Trafford Park, which is the oldest industrial estate in the world.

The Chinese officials were very interested to hear how Trafford Park had developed from heavy industry to the knowledge-based economy of today. They did me the honour of inviting me to sit with the senior members of the Chinese Provincial Government and Party officials at the various occasions surrounding the event.

It was an amazing experience for me. Not only did I meet some of the leading figures in the country, but I got to see its industry and meet everyday people at first hand. Almost everybody I met wanted to practice their English with me. We were taken on tours of the factories over there, which were very impressive. There was nothing third world about the facilities; they were world-class.

My visit was followed last year by a Greater Manchester Chamber delegation to Nanning and to the annual ASEAN Exposition led by Dr. Lee Kai Hung, Chairman of the Northwest Chinese Council.

I was one of the members of this delegation and gave several presentations on Manchester and the Chamber to visiting dignitaries and government officials of both China and the ASEAN countries. We also met business people to discuss the opportunities Greater Manchester holds for this rapidly developing market and vice versa.

This visit led to the idea of Nanning signing a Memorandum of Economic Cooperation and opening a liaison office in Trafford, which has now been achieved.

The visit was very important for Trafford. There are great opportunities in China for local businesses. Often China is seen as a threat to British industry, but it is also a great opportunity. There is huge demand for the high-tech skills that our companies can provide.

I would urge Trafford businesses to make use of the link we now have with Nanning and I look forward to seeing how this link will develop in the years ahead.

About Dr Alan Gerrard

Dr Gerrard has lived in Trafford practically all of his life and has enjoyed an international career, based out of Trafford Park. He is still actively involved in its business community. He is a former Chairman of both Trafford Local Chamber Council and Trafford Business Park Forum, which merged with the Chamber in 2005.

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