Peel Group and Wirral Council have signed a joint venture agreement with Chinese investor Sam Wa Minerals to develop the International Trade Centre in Birkenhead.
The £175m four-phased development totalling in excess of 2.5m sq ft is aimed at enabling up to 1,000 companies from China, India, South Korea and other emerging economies to exhibit, sell, assemble and distribute their goods into the UK. Each building will comprise individual trade showroom units, storage and assembly facilities, serviced offices, a flexible exhibition space and ancillary services.
Wirral council said letters of intent to take space at the ITC have been obtained from Chinese businesses accounting for 36% of the 668,000 sq ft first phase, before the project has been marketed widely in China.
Cllr Phil Davies, leader of the council, said after the signing in Beijing: "This afternoon I spoke to over 100 Chinese businesses who are already demonstrating real commitment to locating in Wirral. Today demonstrates our ambitions for proactively pursuing Chinese investment and will yield direct benefits for our local economy and the people of Wirral."
Also present at the signing were Cllr Jeff Green, leader of the Conservative Group, and Cllr Tom Harney, leader of the Liberal Democrats as well as Lindsey Ashworth, development director of Peel and Stella Shiu, chairman of Sam Wa Minerals.
Shiu said: "Today is a big move forward as we have been able to demonstrate national and local Chinese government support as well as support from businesses and academics. The timing of this project is excellent as Chinese businesses are being encouraged to move out and invest overseas. Today's success will make our vision a reality."
Ashworth added: "As far as the project is concerned the significance of today was not about signing the JV agreement with Sam Wa. We have developed a strong relationship over the last four years and this is merely the paperwork to support it. The real objective of the mission is about securing tenants and that was what today was all about. Today we have made a significant leap forward in delivering this project."
Also present at the signing was David Percival, chief executive of the British Consulate General in China and Lord Green, UK minister of state for trade and investment.
Prior to the signing in Beijing a press conference was attended by Chinese press agencies and TV stations. Wirral Council said the signing of the joint venture agreement was held publicly at the Beijing State Guest House to demonstrate the national Chinese Government's endorsement of the project.
During the 10-day trip to China the Wirral Council delegation has held a series of meetings in Taicang and a number of initiatives will now be taken forward including a significant trade mission from Taicang to Wirral led by the Deputy Mayor consisting of Taicang businesses who wish to invest in Wirral Waters.