LONDON, June 25 (Xinhua) -- The automotive sectors in both the United Kingdom (UK) and China will work together to tackle the challenges that the industry faces, the head of Britain's Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said here on Tuesday.
"China is the world's biggest car producer, the world's biggest car market and an important market for the UK automotive industry," SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.
According to SMMT's "2019 UK Automotive Trade Report" released on Tuesday, China is the third largest export destination for UK-made cars, after the European Union (EU) and the United States.
Citing SMMT's partnership with the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), Hawes said "we are facing similar challenges, such as electrification, connectivity and autonomy. Both organizations want to help their members grow and develop."
The SMMT said in a separate press release that a new era of British-Chinese automotive sector collaboration is underway as the SMMT signed a cooperation agreement with the CAAM on Monday.
"It would be very useful for us to exchange information about market trends, about business opportunities and also about trade, which is very important to both markets, and particularly important to us, because 80 percent of what we produce goes abroad," Hawes said.
"We want to make sure that we are alert to any regulatory changes that happen in China, and equally we can inform Chinese manufacturers about what we are seeing here in the UK, and about the possible regulatory changes post-Brexit," he explained.
Regarding the potential free trade agreement between China and the UK after Brexit, he said he believed that as one of the biggest markets, China will be the priority for the UK to strike a trade deal, but added that "the first thing we need to do is leave the EU and pursue our own free trade policy."
He also noted that a free trade agreement would take some time to negotiate, and "regulatory alignment, greater exchange of information and making sure that both markets have the lowest barriers to entry" are what both sides would try to achieve during the process.
Hawes spoke highly of the mutual investments between the two countries. Citing the British company GKN which was the first western company to invest in China's component industry in 1988, he said it now has 19 manufacturing locations across the country, along with other British car manufacturers investing in China, including Aston Martin, Bentley, McLaren and Jaguar Land Rover.
Meanwhile, Chinese investment in the UK automotive industry has also increased in recent years. Milestones include the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) which established its Technical Centre in the UK in 2005 and Changan Automobile that set up its R&D centre in Britain in 2010. Other recent investors from China's automotive industry also include Geely and BYD, two of China's auto giants and electric car pioneers.
With regard to cooperation in technology such as autonomous vehicles, he said "no one has got all the solutions yet because it is an incredibly complex thing to deliver. So it's our goal to work together with China and other countries to find those solutions."
Asked about the effects of U.S.-initiated trade frictions on the industry, Hawes pointed out that "global trade tensions are not helpful to the market, not helpful to manufacturers, certainly not helpful to consumers."
"As an industry, we want free trade. We don't believe that tariffs would be helpful for anyone," Hawes said.
In its first ever automotive trade report, the UK car industry body also names international trade tensions as one of the industry's major challenges, saying that "disruption of international supply chains would be considerable if producers are forced to seek domestic alternatives to imported materials targeted by import restrictions," and "a further escalation of international trade tensions in key global markets ... would represent a significant threat to the UK automotive industry."