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Trade wind blows doors open for architects in China

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UK architects will be free to trade in China for the first time following a landmark agreement between the European Union and China in Beijing at the end of last month.

The move could provide a major boost for many UK architectural practices hoping to break into the Chinese market.

Under the wide ranging trade agreement designed to ease China's entry into the World Trade Organisation next year, foreign architects will no longer need the co-operation of a Chinese firm to work from abroad for Chinese clients.

Also in the new agreement, architects wishing to form a firm in the Peoples' Republic will no longer need to form a joint venture with a Chinese practice. This rule will become effective five years after Beijing's accession to the WTO.

The news comes just three weeks after Terry Farrell & Partners won a £100 million contract for the Daily News Building, a cultural centre and hotel plaza, in Guangzhau, the old Canton region of China, as well as winning the contract for a convention centre in Quing Dao. Operating under the existing trade rules, Farrell will work in conjunction with a state-run Chinese design institute on the projects.

Steven Smith, director of urban infrastructure at Farrell, said the opportunities for foreign architects in China are significant and lucrative. He said: 'There are infinite challenges in China because it is growing at an alarming rate and simply because it is so vast. Shanghai, for example, is the fastest growing city in the world and the need for development is great. People need housing, schools, infrastructure, transport systems, they need everything. As long as the economy continues to thrive, there will be many projects.'

Under the WTO's most favoured nation principle the concessions apply to all foreign architects, even though the deal was negotiated by the EU's trade commissioner.

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