London's Lord Mayor here to sow seeds of economic cooperation
As the UK prepares to carve a new role for itself on the world stage post Brexit, I am reminded of an ancient Chinese proverb: the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
As Lord Mayor of the City of London, and a principle ambassador for the UK’s financial and professional services industry, I am in Shanghai this week to do exactly this, sewing the seeds of economic cooperation for the future, while building on the decades of dialogue and engagement between our two great cities.
The City of London and Shanghai are truly old friends.
Back in 1996 we signed our first cooperation agreement, which became a memorandum of understanding in 2007. Ten years on, I am delighted to be resigning this agreement alongside the Mayor of Shanghai Ying Yong. After all, our two cities have much to gain from continuing to work together in so many areas.
Firstly, capital market cooperation. The much-anticipated London Shanghai Stock Connect is in its final stages of preparations. When it hopefully launches this year, it will allow investors from China and
Britain to buy stocks from each other’s markets, accelerating the opening-up of China's financial market, and increasing investor awareness of the RMB currency, for which London is already the largest offshore trading hub outside of Asia.
Elsewhere, London and Shanghai can work together on providing financing for the Belt and Road Initiative. As President Xi Jinping said Shanghai is the Belt and Road bridgehead, and recently the first Belt and Road bond was listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
London, as a leading international financial center, is the natural western hub of the Belt and Road, able to support the initiative in many areas, from infrastructure financing, consultancy, green finance, rule of law and foreign exchange.
2018 marks 10 years since the City of London Corporation opened a Representative Office in Shanghai. As we celebrate this milestone, and look back to what we have achieved over the last decade, we also look forward to our next decade in the City, and across Asia. To do this we are asking stakeholders in Shanghai to provide us your views in relation to our work, and how best you think we can help promote industry ties between London and Shanghai over the next ten years.
As we approach Brexit, it is worth remembering that London has never been a European financial centre; it has always been a global financial centre. Our Chinese relationships play a critical part in the capital’s global ecosystem. Nearly 40 financial institutions from China already call London home, and many of London’s financial firms – large and small – have operations in the city.
One my visit, I will also be reminding Chinese government regulators and business leaders just how much the City of London values our long relationship. After all, to quote another Chinese proverb: Friends are like wine: the older, the better.