Mark Eaton, head of the international trade team at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, looks at how business links between China and the West Midlands are to be improved.
Business links between China and our region will be strengthened over the next six months thanks to a series of events.
We are leading a market visit of 14 businesses from the area in June to Shandong and Beijing in the hope of securing contracts for local firms.
There had been some doubts about the trip as I am sure everyone has seen on TV the huge earthquake that hit the Sichuan region of China which has had devastating effects causing a massive loss of life.
It's an absolute tragedy and Ihave been speaking to contacts out in China who live thousands of miles from the epicentre but still felt the quake. It's like an earthquake happening in Russia and the UK feeling a tremor - that's just how powerful it was.
They are devastated out there and our hearts really do go out to those who have lost family -especially children in this disaster.
I've been involved with China for two decades and I think this has shown the world just how the country has changed in those years because we saw footage coming out almost straight after the earthquake hit. That would not have happened 10 years ago.
We put in one or two calls asking whether the trade mission would still happen and we double-checked with our contacts out there who wanted to go ahead.
This area has an excellent relationship with the Shandong region of China - which is thousands of miles from Sichuan. Even so, we take all of the best wishes of Coventry, Warwickshire and the wider West Midlands when we go. Following the visit to Shandong and Beijing, we will then welcome a delegation from China in July.
The group, led by Qiao Yanchuan ,vice chairman of Shandong Chamber, will be in the region to strengthen ties between the West Midlands and the province.
Here in Coventry and Warwickshire and the wider region, we have an outstanding relationship with Shandong.
That is certainly going to stand us in good stead for the future and we look forward to welcoming this delegation.
Then, along with colleagues from the Chamber and Coventry City Council, I will also take part in further visits to the region this autumn. In October, there is an environmental visit to Hong Kong taking place along with adelegation to the CICExpo in Qingdao with a focus on environmental protection and sustainable energy. The West Midlands will also take part in a civic delegation to Jinan and Shandong.
The year's activity will be rounded off by CIAPE -the China International Auto Parts Expo - in November.
I will be leading aparty to this with Les Parfitt of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
It's a massive event to complete our activities in China for 2008.
The Chinese market is opening up more and more to West Midlands firms and our links are being further cemented all the time.