Companies are being recruited for March trip to help UK win part of £610bn public investment programme.
The DETR will attempt to exploit the rapidly expanding Chinese construction market by leading a trade mission to Beijing and one other principal city in March.

The announcement of the mission coincides with the publication of a report by the DETR and the China Britain Business Council that details the growth of opportunities in China over the next 10 years.

The mission will be led by construction minister Beverley Hughes and is expected to include representatives from at least 10 construction firms.

It is planned to begin on 24 March, and will visit the capital and another city, with Shanghai a favoured option.

Talks will be held with officials from the Chinese government, which, according to the report, has earmarked £500bn for investment in infrastructure projects and more than £110bn in housing for its 1.3 billion inhabitants over the next three years.

The report, entitled The Chinese Building Materials Industry, predicts a boom in urban dwellings in China. By 2010, 45% of the 1.3 billion Chinese population will live in towns and cities, compared with 30% in 1999. It is due out next week. A second report, published by the RICS last week, predicts that these public investment plans will make China the largest construction market in the world.

Plans for the trip will include networking events to pick up details of key developments in the pipeline.

Insiders say that the meetings will build up personal contacts for UK firms with Chinese officials, considered crucial to obtaining major contracts in the country.

Firms already established in the area said the potential for work was massive.

Dave Palmer, director for China at Skanska-owned Gammon Construction, which does £40m of work in China a year, said: "The market is potentially huge and I expect to double business in the next three years." Arup director Peter Budd said the airport market was particularly strong, with 40 regional developments planned in China.

The Chinese trade mission is one of a number of recent trips organised by the DETR to seek construction work abroad. Countries visited in the past year have included South Korea, Chile, Nigeria, Turkey and former Yugoslavia.

Enter the dragon

  • China plans to build 230 cities and 5000 towns for a population that, by 2010, will be 45% urban
  • China aims to double GDP growth to 14% by 2010
  • China is expected to join the World Trade Organisation at the end of the year
  • From 1978-98, the UK was China’s largest European investor in China