Scotland seeks closer ties with Beijing
Minister cites salmon and whisky deals, other agreements to build on
China's commitment to sustainable development will benefit China and the world, according to Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond.
"China has made a commitment to move toward sustainable development - something economies all across the world are working toward," Salmond told China Daily.
"Included within that are targets for energy efficiency and consumption that will see China increasingly find its energy from non-fossil fuel sources. That plan is very much in line with what we are trying to do in Scotland."
The first minister of Scotland is the political leader of Scotland, and head of the Scottish Government.
"There is much that we can continue to learn from each other and work together for mutual benefit," said Salmond.
His comments were made while China's National People's Congress was underway in Beijing, which elected the new State leadership, including China's new President Xi Jinping and new Premier Li Keqiang.
Salmond, who has visited China three times, recalled his meetings with Li both in Scotland and Beijing.
Salmond said at each meeting he was struck by the depth of Li's knowledge of Scotland and his continued interest in strengthening relations between the two sides.
Li visited Scotland in January 2011. Salmond said he and Li discussed educational, cultural and economic ties and opportunities to work together more closely on the generation of renewable energy, particularly through inward investment in major renewable infrastructure projects.
"I was particularly pleased that the Chinese authorities agreed … to an export health certificate for Scottish salmon. This has provided a great boost for our world-renowned salmon industry. Exports of fresh Scottish salmon from the UK to China reached a value of 26 million pounds ($39.3 million) in 2012," said Salmond.
He also took the opportunity to thank China's government's for its decision to grant a geographical indicator for Scotch whisky. In the first nine months of 2012, exports of Scotch whisky from the UK to China were valued at 52 million pounds. This represents an increase of 10 percent compared to the same period of 2011, he said.
Salmond said he was honored to meet again with Li during his visit to China in December 2011, where they discussed the continued developments between the two sides.
"Recent export figures show that Chinese business has brought in an additional 605 million pounds to the Scottish economy," Salmond said.
"Inward investment by Chinese firms highlight Scotland's strengths as a business-friendly environment, offering full access to the European Union market. "I hope that the existing Chinese inward investors will be joined by many more."
Besides economic collaboration, Salmond said there are a great many opportunities in other sectors such as high-quality food and drink, tourism, culture and education.
In 2011 and 2012 Scotland welcomed 7,485 Chinese students to study in Scotland, an increase of 22 percent from the previous year.
In 2011, Salmond signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese Ministry of Culture. "I have been pleased to see the range and diversity of performances and exchanges that have taken place under this agreement," he said.
"Of course, two of Scotland's most famous residents now are the giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang. They have attracted a record half a million visitors to Edinburgh in the year since their arrival," he added.