Partnership between Wakefield and Nanning will 'open doors for business'

A "friendship agreement" linking Wakefield with a city in southern China will open up new opportunities for businesses in the West Yorkshire district, the leader of the local council has said.

Thursday, 9th May 2019, 5:04 pm
Councillor Peter Box and Mayor Zhou Hongbo sign the friendship agreement on Thursday morning.

Councillor Peter Box welcomed a delegation from Nanning City, capital of the province of Guangxi near the Vietnam border, on Thursday morning.

The arrangement will see economic and cultural links forged between the two cities and a comparing of notes on job creation and expanding industry.

Despite a grey and wet Thursday morning in West Yorkshire and a delay in arriving because of traffic, Nanning mayor Zhou Hongbo and his Chinese colleagues appeared to form a good first impression of the city,

Sign up to our daily Wakefield Express Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Mayor Zhou said he was not put off by the classic English weather. "Rain brings good fortune," he said.

Welcoming his visitors through a translator, Coun Box said: "You can rely on two things when you visit Wakefield.

"The first is that you get rain, and the second is that you get stuck on the M62."

Mayor Zhou replied: "Rain is a sign of development, because there's a saying in China that rain brings fortune.

"Traffic is good because it means people are moving and going to their jobs, and we always have traffic in Nanning as well. So that didn't bother me and I don't think it should bother you either."

The partnership will build close ties between the two cities.

Home to more than seven million people, Nanning has a reputation as a "green city" because of its large number of trees.

It also has 28 universities and colleges and its main industries include bio-engineering and pharmaceuticals. It posted a GDP of £47m in 2017.

A slick marketing video showing cultural events and working life in Nanning was played to council officials, and Coun Box was particularly impressed by the size of the city's football stadium.

He joked afterwards: "Is there any chance you could build a stadium like that here so we can play rugby in it?"

Nanning is home to seven million people.

The Labour leader said that the deal would be different to other twin town arrangements, which have drawn criticism from some quarters for being outdated and offering little in the way of financial benefit.

He also said that Wakefield residents would not have to pay for any activity arising out of the partnership.

Coun Box told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "One thing this isn't, is the old fashioned kind of twinning where nothing comes of it in terms of business.

"This has got to be based on business.

The city has a history of hosting culture and sporting events.

"We've got firms in Wakefield who will hopefully realise the opportunities there are.

"If we can develop these strong links with Nanning and grow some of the businesses in Wakefield, everybody will benefit."

Asked if there would be any cost to the taxpayer as a result of the partnership, Coun Box replied, "No".

Local Democracy Reporting Service