Sputnik: How would you assess the results of Mr. Hunt's first visit to China?
Alicia Garcia Herrero: I think it is a weird visit in the sense that Hunt feels the need to talk about a free trade agreement between the UK and China. The UK started or planned to start negotiations right after Brexit was decided, right after the referendum which was even earlier than it is today in the sense that the UK was obviously not ready to negotiate, even not allowed in a way legally by this situation with Europe.
China in fact and we've written a blog in BRUEGEL about this, will clearly start with Europe. That's at the end of the day between two-thirds, three-fourths of the European economy. And by starting with the UK it would only hurt its relations with Europe because, especially if the case of a hard Brexit, the UK cannot offer an entry for China to Europe.
So in a way by going back and forth with this idea of "wait for us, we're ready for the free trade agreement with China" is only showing China that the UK is in a very weak position. So that's the one thing that should have been in the core of the visit, I would have rather focused on things that the UK can control better.
Sputnik: How can China's willingness to cooperate with London post-Brexit impact London's upcoming talks with Brussels?
So in that regard I'm not sure it's going to influence the negotiations because there's not much that the UK can show to the EU in terms of potential trade agreement with China. So the answer to your question is not really, it's only showing its weakness as I've said, it's only showing that the UK has no options to negotiate a big trade agreement with a big area unless it's very clear that they can offer access the European market.
Sputnik: What benefits are there for China in negotiating a trade deal with the United Kingdom?
Alicia Garcia Herrero: The clear benefit would be that if the UK has a soft Brexit option, the customs union with Europe, because then China could access Europe through the UK without needing to sign, which is actually very difficult because the European Union doesn't want it yet, a free trade agreement with Europe. That would be the clear benefit, but the point it that that's very unlikely.
So if the UK does have a soft Brexit it will be very interesting for China, but if it doesn't I don't think that China would be interested.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Professor Alicia Garcia Herrero and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.