Government officials and industry leaders from the Chinese province of Hunan have flown to the UK for a whistlestop tour of Lincolnshire as the county lays the foundations for further cooperation in business and education between the two regions.
Around 70 delegates from the booming province in south-east China arrived in Lincolnshire on Wednesday, April 18 to see what the county has to offer, and to explore areas of common ground in trade.
The delegates visited Holbeach Technology Park, Stokes, Imperial Tea, Immingham Docks, the University of Lincoln, Bishop Grosseteste University and Lincoln College as part of their tour of the county.
They met with local business leaders to discuss areas of future collaboration in areas such as new technology, as well as strengthening the core ties within sectors such as food, engineering and education.
Lincolnshire County Council signed a declaration of friendship and economic co-operation with Hunan in September 2015.
Hunan is largely agricultural, like Lincolnshire, but has a population of around 70 million, bigger than the entire UK, and has been developing its machinery, steel, tobacco, food processing and electronics sectors in addition to its traditional rice and cotton growing.
New agreements tied to a high-profile political visit could be signed later this year.
Councillor Colin Davie, who is responsible for economic development at Lincolnshire County Council was pivotal in the first agreement and said that he was keen for further deals to be struck with Hunan, as well as with other areas of the world.
He said: “We’ve got a great relationship building which is providing real benefits for Greater Lincolnshire in the future.
“I want to build relationships between companies. I want them to understand the opportunities of importing and exporting and we want to grow the work of our education establishments who already have formed relationships with Hunan.
“Lincolnshire has a relatively small economy – in the Greater Lincolnshire sense it’s about £19 billion per annum.
“The province of Hunan is 70 million people with an annual GDP of some £365 billion so it’s a big opportunity for us to have real relationships with a place as big as our country.”
Hunan businessman Wilson Liu, who helped organise the visit, described the relationship between the two regions as a “golden era”.
He said: “This is my third visit to Lincolnshire. Hunan is very similar to Lincolnshire as it is very agricultural. The opportunities for our regions are twofold: Lincolnshire as a gateway to UK for China and Hunan as a gateway to China for the UK.”
Zhou Yue, Deputy Director General of Hunan Department of Commerce, added: “In industry we have a lot of potential to cooperate.”