Wakefield Council led a trade delegation trip to Xiangyang in China last month, to help boost Wakefield’s economy and improve international links.
During the visit, the Council formalised its link with Xiangyang by signing a Sister City agreement with the city. It also gave representatives of companies an opportunity to meet potential business partners in China, taking a significant step towards creating opportunities whilst further linking the two areas through education and culture.
Following the trade mission, the Council will create an action plan agreed by both cities to develop opportunities for businesses in the future. The plan will also include cultural exhibitions at The Hepworth Wakefield and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Working with Wakefield College, the agreement will also look to develop a student exchange programme with Xiangyang, as well as a potential teacher exchange programme.
Council Leader, Cllr Peter Box CBE, and Chief Executive, Joanne Roney OBE, attended the trip to represent the Council.
Cllr Box said: “We are pleased to have met with officials in China and signed a sister city agreement with Xiangyang. This marks an important commitment from both sides.
“The visit has given us the chance to speak directly with existing and potential business partners, as well as creating strong links in education and cultural sectors. It is a key part of our efforts to boost our local economy and bring more jobs and investment into the district.”
During the visit, Xiangyang officials complemented Wakefield Council on their approach to development within the district and the groups hope to share best practice around this.
Delegates from Xiangyang plan to visit Wakefield in 2017 to further the business and cultural links. This will be planned to coincide with the Wakefield University centre opening and the 40th Anniversary of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Xiangyang has a similar economic profile to Wakefield, but on a much larger scale and there has been an ongoing dialog between the two cities for four years.
The delegation included representatives from Wakefield College and businesses such as, Double Two, Backstage Academy, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Tileyard, the new investor in Wakefield’s Waterfront. During the trip, the delegation met with the Mayor Qin Jun of Xiangyang as well as the Reform Commission, Commerce Bureau, Bureau of Education and other private sector businesses.
The Xiangyang area was chosen due to the potential benefits and opportunities for local companies and institutions. Located in central China, with a population of around 6 million, Xiangyang has highly developed infrastructure and feeds larger economies such as Shanghai and Beijing, referred to as the “strategic passage to the North and South”. They have been able to unlock significant growth in key industries such as manufacturing and high tech with over 300 scientific institutes all built on a traditional coal mining history.
Wakefield Council worked with the Government body in Xiangyang to cover the cost of the visit, and private sector representatives contributed toward their own arrangements.