SW firms look set to benefit from Brexit-fuelled manufacturing deal

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A TRADE deal signed by South West organisations including one from Somerset and representatives from China at the end of last year has been extended this month (February 2021) to include manufacturing.

The deal between the South West Business Council (SWBC), Bridgwater-based Aspen Waite China UK (AWCUK), and Chinese Economic Development Zones will help Westcountry firms find manufacturing partners in China.

Tim Jones, Chairman of SWBC, says: 

“We are absolutely delighted to have forged this hugely important deal with our Chinese business partners. This transaction has been brokered by AWCUK, who have been tireless in pursuing opportunities for mutual benefit between the UK and these fast-expanding regions of China.

“The scale of ambition that arises from this should not be underestimated. At a business level, the Geo-Political issues are put aside. The South West of England already trades very successfully with many parts of China, this is an extension of these projects and is anticipated to become a 10-20 year working partnership.”

The work in developing these trading links, has been supported by China’s Bureaux of Commerce and Development Zones and in the UK by the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC).

It means any business in the Westcountry that is struggling to get products made and imported from Europe following Brexit, now has an alternative manufacturing option.

The initiative also supports the export of UK innovation and educational standards and includes the key sectors of med-tech and life sciences, IT and low carbon.

Darren Horne, CEO of AWCUK, explains:

“With many British businesses starting to experience difficulties in getting European made goods across the border due to Brexit, they are seriously looking at alternative sources for manufacturing. 

“Since the start of the year, we’ve seen manufacturing enquiries into our team increase by 36%, as businesses start looking to China to fulfil their requirements. In light of demand, fuelled by frustration with Brexit red tape causing lengthy delays and increased costs, we’ve been working with SWBC and our friends at Anshan Economic Development Zone. Anshan is China’s largest manufacturing city.”

AWCUK’s teams in Beijing and Shanghai say the country is ‘open for business’ and is also keen to unlock its home markets for those wishing to sell-in products too. 

Darren adds:

“It’s clear that the paperwork associated with Europe now means it will be much more difficult and time sensitive to sell there. Across the world there are many other countries keen to do business with firms in the Westcountry. 

“And for those worried about their markets diminishing, then China has a growing affluent, middle-class hungry for products and services, and it wants to attract firms wishing to do business there too.”

Last month Miao Wei, Chinese Minister of Industry and Information Technology announced at the China Development Forum that China will open-up its manufacturing sector fully. 

This will mean UK companies will receive the same treatment as Chinese ones. The initiative is part of China’s overall wish to improve worldwide commercial cooperation.

Darren adds:

“Miao said he wishes to establish open partnerships. He wants to bring new opportunities to foreign companies and more efforts will be made to create a transparent business environment for investment and business in China.

“If you add to this China’s commitment to the environment and carbon neutrality by 2060, it’s a brilliant partner for those needing to make environmentally-sound products to satisfy our own Government’s targets and to sell to our nation’s growing eco-conscious consumers.”

Working with SWBC, AWCUK is encouraging companies based in the Westcountry to explore its links to Anshan and to look to China as a manufacturing partner.

A spokesperson for from Anshan Municipal Government said:

“Anshan Economic Development Zone is very happy to establish sound cooperation partnerships with friends and counterparts in the UK, of which Anshan municipal government is supportive.” 

AWCUK is part of the Aspen Waite Group, which was founded in 1993 as a firm of Chartered Accountants offering services to corporates and individuals. The company has rapidly grown to be a UK top 100 accounting firm.

The Group is more recently known for being among the top UK firms for innovation and R&D.

AWCUK has very close links with Chinese Economic Development governments, and with offices in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as in most regions of the UK, including its head offices in Bridgwater, Somerset.

The company has a history of developing new sectors of cooperation, strategic partnerships for public and private sector, and overcoming difficulties created by differences in regulations, business cultural and process differences.

Anyone interested in finding out more about AWCUK, should visit