Business leaders in Birmingham have spoken of their disappointment after George Osborne intervened to prevent China’s President from visiting Britain’s second city.
President Xi Jinping wanted to travel to Birmingham during his state visit, but the Chancellor is reported to have insisted he head to Manchester instead.
Senior figures had been lobbying for the President to visit the West Midlands to announce that the Chinese manufacturer, Changan Automobile, was relocating its UK operations to the city, according to the Birmingham Mail. Instead, he will fly to Manchester with Mr Osborne, who used his recent visit to China to showcase “unprecedented opportunities” for investment in the “Northern Powerhouse” scheme.
Senior figures in Birmingham have told the The Independent of their dismay at a “missed opportunity”. Paul Faulkner, chief executive of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “We are told that the Chinese themselves wanted to visit the city and this made absolute sense given the huge investment they already have here in the ‘Midlands engine’.
“They are predicted to be investing heavily in rail and infrastructure projects in the West Midlands and, of course, they are in line for high-speed rail contracts.
“The West Midlands exports £5.3bn worth of goods to China, compared with a UK deficit of £20bn. This is largely based on a Far East love affair with Jaguars, Land Rovers and JCBs, so what better place for the Chinese leader and his party to visit? We feel they have missed a great opportunity to further strengthen links.”
Birmingham was due to have a delegation at a business summit in London on Wednesday, where discussions were to take place with Chinese investors.
Jack Dromey, Birmingham Erdington Labour MP, said: “The Chinese President was happy to come from Beijing to Birmingham. Brummies in the business community will be dismayed that George Osborne diverted him to Manchester. The Chancellor is wrong to snub Britain’s second city.”
Downing Street is yet to comment.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies