China mission axed as firms stay away

The Norfolk County Council chairman, Ian Monson, left, and the Suffolk County Council chairman, Jere

The Norfolk County Council chairman, Ian Monson, left, and the Suffolk County Council chairman, Jeremy Pembroke, centre, welcome Chen Qingwei, division director of the department of commerce at Jiangsu, one of the Chinese delegation at a reception at Norwich Castle. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

A planned trade mission to China for businesses working in the energy sector has been shelved because of a lack of interest from the region's firms.

The mission, which was due to fly out to Jiangsu Province this month, was organised by Essex County Council and the East of England Energy Group with Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils.

It was also supported by the government's UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) team in China, while Norfolk Chamber had also described it as a 'fantastic opportunity' for Norfolk businesses to expand their lists of suppliers.

But the visit has been scrapped after failing to attract the 10 firms from across the three counties it needed to justify the trip.

The trade mission idea was intended to build on links with the province which has already seen business and civic leaders from Jiangsu head to the region to look at potential inward investment opportunities.

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However, there is better news on that front as officials are expected to welcome two Chinese firms to the region to discuss inward investment opportunities.

David Dukes, economic development manager at Norfolk County Council, said: 'We needed a minimum of 10 companies to sign up to go and we just didn't get the uptake we needed for the trade mission to be viable.

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'We spoke to a lot of businesses that wanted to go, but they didn't feel their business was in a position to be able to afford to go to China.'

'We held a number of export workshops across the three counties and there were lots of people interested in learning how to export to China, but there's quite a gap between learning how to export and commiting a week to go out to there.'

Now it looks like policymakers will focus on companies that are already exporting to China, and among the ideas being discussed are trips targeting food science firms at the Norwich Research Park, ICT businesses around Martlesham near Ipswich, and logistics businesses in and around the Essex ports.

Mr Dukes added: 'It's very busy on the inward investment side, but on the export side, we've got a bit more work to do.'

An Essex County Council spokeswoman said: 'In the current economic climate not enough businesses were ready or able to take up the offer and unfortunately we have been unable to go ahead with the planned activity.'

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