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Reciprocal agreement to open doors to China

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A deal that will open up China's vast architectural market to British practices is in the pipeline, the AJ has learnt.

The Architects' Council of Europe (ACE), an umbrella group that includes the RIBA, is on the verge of signing a Mutual Recognition Agreement with the Chinese government.

The move - which could be completed within six months - will mean that British architects will be allowed to work freely in China without having to work in collaboration with local practices.

UK offices have welcomed the move, saying an agreement would make taking on design jobs in the booming economy 'considerably more attractive'.

However, any agreement will also be reciprocated, allowing Chinese-qualified architects to pick up jobs in Britain. The ACE's chief negotiator, former RIBA presidential candidate John Wright, said that the Chinese representatives at recent World Trade Organisation negotiations were 'extremely enthusiastic' when an agreement was proposed.

'The Chinese are keen to see a deal, ' he told the AJ. 'Their ambassador to the World Trade Organisation is currently finding out from the Chinese government how fast they can deliver it.'

Wright added: 'There is a real opportunity here.

If this agreement goes through, which I think it will, it will mean a lot more freedom for both UK and Chinese architects.'

London-based Botschi Vargas - which has just picked up a major competition win for a new quarter in Yichuang city - said an agreement would make working in China much easier.

'A move like this would be extremely welcome, ' founding partner Luz Vargas said. 'It would be advantageous for anybody who wants to work in China in the future.' She added that she hoped it would also ease the 'bureaucracy and cultural difficulties' currently experienced by many British practices when working in the country.

Roger Ingell, the director for overseas development at Aedas AHR - a practice with a 250-strong office in Hong Kong - added that Brits should have nothing to fear from an influx of Chinese architects.

'Assuming that those who come are suitably qualified, then they would be a considerable asset to this country's architectural community, ' he said.

'This is only the start, but I think it will be great news.'

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