The finance ministry is seeking to resume a key economic summit with the Chinese government, three years after the previous chapter of the supposed annual round of talks.

Sky News has learned that Whitehall officials have set a date later this month for the eleventh UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue (EFD), the last iteration of which took place in 2019.

However, the resignation of chancellor Rishi Sunak last week and his successor Nadhim Zahavi’s decision to enter the Conservative Party leadership race has fueled industry concerns that the EFD could face delays until later this year.

City insiders said there have already been talks between officials on issues including sustainable and green financing, which is expected to be high on the EFD agenda.

The COVID-19 pandemic and deteriorating political relations between Britain and China have combined to delay any summit since 2019, but officials on both sides are said to remain optimistic about the possibility of a meeting within weeks.

If it does happen, it will most likely be held virtually, although under the rotation agreement it is nominally China’s turn to host the summit.

Nevertheless, it would be an important event on the international stage for Mr. Zahavi to strengthen his leadership credentials.

China is Britain’s third largest trading partner and under David Cameron, then prime minister, the British government sought to establish a “golden era” of trade with the world’s most populous country.

The government’s decision to exclude Huawei Technologies from Britain’s 5G network, last year’s tensions in the South China Sea and growing hostility to Chinese investment in the UK from Conservative MPs such as Tom Tugendhat, another leadership contender, have, however, caused a recent chill in relations between Westminster and Beijing.

A year ago, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang held talks with directors of FTSE-100 companies including Diageo, HSBC, Rio Tinto and Standard Chartered to discuss bilateral trade.

Mr Lee told British business leaders that China would continue to open up its markets to give them greater access to the country’s fast-growing middle class.

In his final speech as chancellor, Mr Sunak said improving trade ties with China was a priority, calling for a “mature and balanced relationship” between the countries.

Despite the political upheaval in Westminster, this year’s Mansion House dinner, which also traditionally features the Governor of the Bank of England and the Lord Mayor of the City of London, will go ahead as planned on July 19.

The representative of the Ministry of Finance refused to comment.

https://news.sky.com/story/treasury-scrambles-to-finalise-china-economic-talks-12649884

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