The Chancellor Philip Hammond spoke on behalf of the UK at a Belt and Road conference hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday, pledging the UK as a 'natural partner' for delivering the infrastructure. Hammond was among a long list of world leaders at the two-day event in Beijing held to promote China's aims for creating the world's biggest trade and infrastructure project.
An example of Xi's hopes happened in January when a freight train from eastern China arrived at DP World's rail freight depot in East London. That train took two weeks to arrive because the containers had to be transferred across different guages and rail systems several times along the 7,500 mile journey due to a lack of interconnect between rail systems. China's plan is to create continuous road and rail infrastructure links to boost trade across the China-Europe belt and elsewhere, into India, Malaysia, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey.
In his speech published by government on Sunday, Hammond said the UK "wants to maintain a close and open trading partnership with our European neighbours, but at the same time, it is our ambition to secure free trade agreements around the world with new partners and old allies alike".
"China clearly shares this ambition," he said. "China has already pledged to invest $4 trillion in Belt and Road countries through this initiative. The UK can be a natural partner in delivering this infrastructure, supporting the finance, design, and delivery needed to make President Xi’s vision a reality."