Opinion

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UK-China trade mission: The inside track

3 Mins

The PM has taken the largest ever UK trade trip to China, or indeed anywhere else, to try and stoke up bilateral trade. 

It turns out that the UK is one of the the largest exporters to China a figure which has been growing dramatically in the last two years

The journey to the centre of Beijing evidenced this as we pass Burberry, Dunhill, Daks and Aquascutum on the way.

This trip is mainly filled with SMEs which is another first. They are an amazing collection of people with wonderful ideas they have started from their kitchen table such as the ubiquitous Cambridge Satchel Company, started by Julie Deane when she needed to pay for her kids’ school fees. 

The youngest entrepreneur here is Laurence Kemball-Cook, who has patented Pavegen: technology which generates electricity from people walking on pavements. Is he brilliant or wacky?

He says his product works best in new towns. Today we learned that China plans to build a new town the size of Plymouth every week for 18 years – where do I buy Pavegen shares?!

He takes me for a sneaky break to visit Tiananmen square. What a sight to see the Union Jack flying there!

Previous visits to china have always presented the problem of booking at restaurants. When I phone with my surname they noisily laugh and welcome back Mr Lee.

I explain I am Mr L.E.I.G.H Howard and this totally confuses all. This time I thought I would be fine booking as Lord Leigh only to be welcomed as Mr Lordy. 

If this plane crashes we will lose the ministers for health, culture, higher education, China and of course the PM. Is it a coincidence the Commons debated a Prime Minister replacement bill last week in case he is no longer with us?

We all pay for this trip but the UK press can’t resist accusing us of wasting taxpayers money (go figure). Last week I spent from 15:00pm to 22:00pm in the Lords creating laws for which I received £300. Only to have to consult a lawyer next day on a legal issue for £600 an hour. 

Related: What does an overseas trade mission actually involve?

Lord Leigh of Hurley is a senior partner at Cavendish Corporate Finance.

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