Nicola Sturgeon to visit China after £10bn trade deal row

A previous memorandum of understanding signed by Nicola Sturgeon with Chinese firms collapsed
A previous memorandum of understanding signed by Nicola Sturgeon with Chinese firms collapsed
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Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled plans to visit China next month just over a year after a £10 billion investment deal with the country collapsed.

The First Minister is to take part in high-level business and government meetings during a visit to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong next month.

She says the aim of the trip will be to show the world's second largest economy that Scotland is a "fantastic place to invest."

But it follows an embarrassing row for Scottish ministers just over a year back in November when Chinese state-backed companies SinoFortone and China Railway No 3 Engineering Group pulled the plug on a £10 billion investment deal in Scotland. It followed a row over secrecy surrounding the deal and previous allegations of corrupt practices surrounding the firms involved.

Read more: £10bn China deal collapses over ‘hostile’ Scots outcry
Ms Sturgeon said today: “As the world’s second largest economy, there are huge opportunities for Scottish companies to work with China.

"I will be travelling with the message that Scotland is a fantastic place to invest, to do business, to study and to visit on holiday.

“During my visit I will meet with senior Chinese Government representatives and I look forward to exploring new ways that our two countries can work together for the mutual benefit of all our people. As with my previous meetings, we will continue to talk about the importance of equality of opportunity and respect for human rights.”

This will be the First Minister’s first visit to China since 2015. Latest figures show that goods exports from Scotland to China are increasing at a faster rate than to any of Scotland’s other top five export partners, with a rise of more than 40% last year.

Read more: FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon criticised over collapsed Chinese trade deal
The first direct Scotland-China air route was announced last week, with Hainan Airlines set to offer a twice-weekly service between Edinburgh and Beijing from June this year.

In December last year, the First Minister met with Vice Premier Liu Yandong in Edinburgh during her visit to the UK.

Liz Cameron, Director and Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said the aim is to show Scotland "open for business" with the rest of the world.

"That means being able to trade and invest easily with international markets, and Scotland remaining an attractive destination for inward investment," she said.

“The Chamber Network’s Business Mission to China will see Scottish companies meet directly with Chinese suppliers, investors and buyers, providing commercial business opportunities and partnership exchanges. With our dedicated Scottish Trade Office in Yantai, coupled with Scotland’s entrepreneurial business diaspora and the unparalleled reach of the Scottish Chamber Network, I am confident we will deepen the business to business relationships between Scotland and China and grow our economy.”

Karen Betts, Chief Executive at the Scotch Whisky Association, said China represents a "huge opportunity" for growth.

"Exports to China increased by 47% last year along as more Chinese consumers start appreciating the heritage, craft and quality of Scotch," she added.