Chancellor George Osborne has made a landmark deal to develop London into a major offshore trading centre for the Chinese currency.
At the beginning of a three-day visit to Asia, Mr Osborne said he would be holding talks on establishing the City of London as a leading international hub for the exchange of the yuan, also known as the reminibi.
UK companies will be opened up to Asian investors while the Hong Kong authorities have agreed to keep their trading floors open longer each day to make it easier for financiers in London to make trades in the Chinese currency.
The move is expected to bring a multimillion pound boost to the UK capital at a time when its economic growth is being increasingly threatened by the crisis in the eurozone.
Speaking in Hong Kong, the Chancellor said: “London is perfectly placed to act as a gateway for Asian banking and investment in Europe.”
“Our objective is simple: we want to expand the amount of business and trade we do with each other so that the citizens of China, Hong Kong and Britain all benefit from the prosperity and jobs that will bring.”
A new private sector forum will be set up to boost cooperation between Hong Kong and London, with European and Chinese banks including HSBC, Standard Chartered, Bank of China, Deutsche Bank and Barclays taking part. Mr Osborne will also visit Beijing and Tokyo during his trip to Asia this week.
Britain won the Chinese government’s backing for London to become a trading hub for the yuan last year.