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Jeremy Hunt seeks to calm China concerns on Brexit

Britain's Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt arrives to attend a cabinet meeting at Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain February 2, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - A senior British cabinet minister sought on Tuesday to assuage concerns in China about market access in the wake of the Brexit vote, pointing to Hong Kong’s success as a trading hub as proof of Britain’s commitment to keeping its doors open to global business.

Britain has been a popular choice for Chinese investment, with many firms seeing it as a springboard for the far larger European Union market. But those plans could now be at risk with the uncertainly surrounding what kind of market access Britain will get after it voted to exit the EU in June.

“It is incredibly important that China and our other partners and friends across the world know, this is in no way about Britain closing its doors to the outside world,” said British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt at a press conference in Shanghai.

“Our past successes as a nation over many centuries has been because we’ve been one of the greatest trading nations on the planet, you’ve seen that in this region with the great success of Hong Kong,” Hunt added.

Diplomatic sources say China has been seeking clarity from Britain about its Brexit plans, nervous about what it means for Chinese companies.

“We are committed to having the closest possible trade links with the EU,” said Hunt.

In early November, Hunt said Britain’s parliament is highly unlikely to block the decision to trigger the Article 50 legal process for leaving the European union, after a British court ruled the government needs parliamentary approval to start the process.

Reporting by Engen Tham and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Shri Navaratnam