Is Chinese 'Snub' a Sign of WAG's Failure to 'sell'Wales? as a High-Level Chinese Trade Delegation Ends Its Trip to London and Scotland, Matt Withers Looks at Why Wales Is Not Hosting Such a Trip and How It Is Building Relations with the Economic Powerhouse

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 12, 2011 | Go to article overview

Is Chinese 'Snub' a Sign of WAG's Failure to 'sell'Wales? as a High-Level Chinese Trade Delegation Ends Its Trip to London and Scotland, Matt Withers Looks at Why Wales Is Not Hosting Such a Trip and How It Is Building Relations with the Economic Powerhouse


Byline: Matt Withers

EVEN if the high-level delegation of Chinese officials and business leaders to Scotland over recent days has not shown up on your news radar, chances are Tian Tian and Yangguang have.

They're not politicians. They're the giant pandas heading to Edinburgh Zoo following an agreement between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association, and the most striking image yet of the burgeoning relationship between Scotland and China.

Not that it's the only concrete example of the past week. At the weekend it was announced that a pounds 6.4m renewable energy technology deal had been agreed between Chinese-Scottish firm Shanghai Huanuan Boiler and Vessel Cochran and a Scottish engineering company.

Li Keqiang - widely tipped to eventually become the country's premier - arrived in Edinburgh as part of a four-day visit to the UK aimed at deepening economic and business ties.

But it has raised questions with some as to why Scotland was capable of attracting leading representatives of an emerging power, while Wales was not on the agenda.

Professor Dylan Jones-Evans, a Western Mail columnist and chairman of the Welsh Conservatives' Economic Commission, launched a scathing attack on the Assembly Government on his blog, accusing it of being "snubbed by one of the most important business delegations to visit these shores in recent years".

It was a charge denied by the Assembly Government, who pointed out that Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones met the Chinese ambassador to the UK last year, although it is 11 years since a trade delegation on a par with that which visited Scotland this week came to Wales.

"The obvious question is why is Wales being excluded from the agenda for the visit by this high-powered Chinese delegation, which consists of 50 Government officials and 100 business leaders, and is viewed as important to increasing Britain's trade with China?" said Prof Jones-Evans.

"Given that our export performance is the worst of all the UK regions and we have the lowest proportion of exporting businesses, surely it should be a WAG priority.

"More importantly, has anybody asked why WAG is so slow off the mark when it comes to building links with the major economies of the world? Is it because, for much of 2010, the civil service and politicians were obsessed with the internal wranglings of the now defunct International Business Wales, rather than on going out there and selling Wales to the world?" He claimed that, as the visit was being organised by UKTI, there was "obviously an issue" regarding the relationship with the UK Government's main overseas business advocate.

"Surely, it isn't that difficult for WAG and UKTI to work more closely together?" he said.

"It doesn't say much for the profile of Wales in the UK and overseas when we are snubbed by one of the most important business delegations to visit these shores in recent years. More importantly, what efforts are being made by our civil servants to build these links with major trading partners rather than relying on spending millions of pounds on yet another trendy, visually pleasing but ultimately pointless marketing campaign? "If Alex Salmond has visited China twice in the last year, what is the record of our own First Minister in this regard?

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Is Chinese 'Snub' a Sign of WAG's Failure to 'sell'Wales? as a High-Level Chinese Trade Delegation Ends Its Trip to London and Scotland, Matt Withers Looks at Why Wales Is Not Hosting Such a Trip and How It Is Building Relations with the Economic Powerhouse
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