Chinese firms fear Brexit and US-China trade war – minister

Companies seek reassurance on major trade concerns

China struggles to understand why the UK would want to leave the EU, said Michael D’Arcy, Ireland’s minister of state at the department of finance, during a visit to China where he attended the Hong Kong Asian Financial Forum. Photograph: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg

China struggles to understand why the UK would want to leave the EU, said Michael D’Arcy, Ireland’s minister of state at the department of finance, during a visit to China where he attended the Hong Kong Asian Financial Forum. Photograph: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg

 

Brexit and the US-China trade spat are key issues for Chinese companies when talking about Ireland, and firms struggle to understand why Britain is choosing to leave the EU, the Minister of State with special responsibility for financial services and insurance Michael D’Arcy said.

“There are two issues – Brexit and the US trade difficulties with China,” Mr D’Arcy told The Irish Times in an interview at the Irish Embassy in Beijing, which he is visiting as part of a trade delegation. “That’s a bigger issue here in China, while Brexit is a bigger issue for us, but it creates difficulties for Chinese companies operating in the UK.”

During his trip, Mr D’Arcy addressed the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong and met senior business figures there and in Macau. In Beijing, he had talks with Danny Alexander, vice-president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and Liu Wei, vice-minister at the finance ministry.

Internationally there is still sometimes a perception that Ireland is part of the UK, so information is important, he said, but he encountered puzzlement among the Chinese as to why Britain is opting to leave the European Union.

“The people I’m talking to here are well informed about Brexit. The EU is the largest free trade bloc and people here they are scratching their heads as to why the UK wants to leave such a large free trade bloc,” said Mr D’Arcy.

He added that the US-China trade spat creates uncertainty. “Business doesn’t like uncertainty, but I’m of the view that it’s always darkest before the dawn. We’re going to know what’s going to happen on Brexit in the next two to three months, and possibly the same on US and China trade,” said Mr D’Arcy.

Ireland’s reputation on financial services and sectors such as food is very strong in China.

“Our green label has very high value here in China when you consider the number of people living here and the size of the country – it’s more than a country, it’s half a continent,” said Mr D’Arcy.

Events such as the opening of the Bank of China branch in Dublin 18 months ago were very important.

“We are not going to capitalise on difficulties companies have because of Brexit, but if a Chinese company has a difficulty because of Brexit, we are quite happy to be part of the solution to help them out,” said Mr D’Arcy.