SCOTTISH firms have been urged to raise their sights if they want to tap into the Chinese market after fresh figures showed UK exports to the world’s second-largest economy topped £3.6 billion in the final three months of 2014.
However, Barbara Woodward, the UK’s next ambassador to China, acknowledged that small companies are often dissuaded from attempting to tackle the huge market due to perceived barriers to trade.
Speaking to Scotland on Sunday ahead of her visit to Beijing on 21 February, Woodward said: “There are two types of barrier. One is a lack of information, where companies either don’t think about China or worry it’s too big for them to do business there. The other one is practical, especially around market access in sectors like healthcare and financial services.”
Nevertheless, Edinburgh-based crowdfunding website ShareIn recently announced it was working with consultancy BOP on a partnership to build the first equity-based platform targeting firms and investors in both China and the UK.
The move came after the China Securities Regulatory Commission and Securities Association of China published draft regulations to help small and medium-sized firms lower the cost of finance and tap into overseas investment through the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, launched in 2013 as a pilot for economic and social reforms.
Meanwhile, life sciences firm SinoVet, which develops animal vaccines for the Chinese market, last week said it was aiming to create ten jobs after setting up a facility near Penicuik. Scottish Enterprise said the company chose the site despite “fierce” competition from the likes of Ireland and Surrey.
Woodward said: “China is becoming an increasingly international and sophisticated market. The UK has overtaken Germany as China’s number one destination for foreign direct investment in Europe. It’s grown 85 per cent a year for the past five years, and Scotland’s been a recipient of that.”
She added: “There’s probably a bit more we could be doing in Scotland to attract Chinese investment, but it’s been a very promising start.”