Britain hopes to attract investment from Chinese carmakers – minister

HAMPTON COURT, England (Reuters) – Britain’s investment minister on Monday said he was working to attract Chinese car manufacturers to build a factory in the country and that investment from China was crucial to meeting environmental targets.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s appointment of former British leader David Cameron as foreign minister earlier this month caused concern among some lawmakers in his Conservative Party about what it would mean for the government’s approach to China.

As prime minister, Cameron heralded a “golden era” in relations with China in 2015, something Sunak has said was over.

At a foreign direct investment summit at Hampton Court Palace on Monday, British investment minister Dominic Johnson said commercial talks could run in parallel with political disagreements.

“Chinese investment is crucial if we’re to achieve our net zero goals … I welcome strong business collaboration between the UK and China when it comes to investing in each other’s countries,” Johnson told reporters, adding he would rather Chinese cars were made in Britain than imported.

“Absolutely, I have an ambition to try and attract a Chinese car manufacturer.”

Sunak reiterated his stance that it was possible to work with China in some areas while protecting Britain’s interests in other areas of particular sensitivity.

Britain is re-examining the application of its recently introduced National Security and Investment (NSI) Act that has disproportionately blocked Chinese-backed deals.

Johnson said he was concerned that the act created an “impression of friction”, but that it had only been used to intervene in a small number of deals overall, adding it was right to have a safeguard.

Britain has announced several car investments this year, including a new Tata gigafactory and investment by Nissan.

Asked if he had an update on talks with the European Union to resolve rules of origin tariffs due to come into force on carmakers next year, Johnson said “sadly not”.

“We’ve been very clear that we need to work with our European partners not to get stuck in rules of origin omelettes, which is unhelpful to both sides,” he said. “We want to have sensible, pragmatic outcomes to help our car manufacturers.”

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Alex Richardson)