David Cameron, the former Prime Minister, has begun courting City fund managers as he seeks $1bn for a new investment fund which aims to exploit trade links between Britain and China.
Sky News understands that Mr Cameron has kicked off talks with institutional investors in London about the initiative.
Further talks with major asset managers are expected to take place in the next month, according to City sources.
Plans for the fund were confirmed last weekend, when Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, referred to it as part of the annual UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue.
Details of Mr Cameron’s plans remain vague, although he is likely to assume a role as the new venture’s chairman if it manages to hit its fundraising target.
The fund is likely to invest in sectors such as technology, with roughly half the money expected to come from British investors.
A senior individual is expected to join the fund in the coming months to oversee its day-to-day activities, although their identity was unclear on Friday.
A spokesman for the former PM said: “David Cameron remains very proud of his work as Prime Minister launching the ‘Golden Era’ between the UK and China with President Xi, and strengthening the UK-China trade and investment relationship.
“In an effort to build on that work out of office, he wishes to play a role in a new UK-China bilateral investment fund that will invest in innovative and sustainable growth opportunities in both the UK and China to create jobs and further boost trade links.
“Having now received official advice from ACOBA [Whitehall’s advisory committee on business appointments], work is continuing on establishing the fund – including holding discussions with a number of financial institutions in the UK and China.”
Mr Cameron’s talks with City investors come as his successor in 10 Downing Street prepares for her first formal trade mission to China since becoming PM.
Sky News revealed earlier this week that officials have scheduled a three-day trip to Beijing, beginning on 31 January.
Mrs May will be accompanied by a substantial delegation of business leaders drawn from across the UK economy, according to insiders.
The size of that delegation is expected to be the subject of debate, with the PM tending to favour smaller ?parties than those which accompanied Mr Cameron during major trade visits.
If it does take place at the end of next month, the trade mission would come a year after the PM said she would visit China “relatively soon”.
An earlier date was removed because of the General Election campaign, while another provisional visit? in November was postponed because of its close proximity to a trip by Donald Trump, the US President.
A visit to Beijing at the end of next month would be moderately surprising, since Parliament is not scheduled to be in recess, leaving Mrs May’s wafer-thin House of Commons majority more exposed.
May has been perceived by Chinese officials to be far more cautious towards the country than Mr Cameron, with Nick Timothy, her former aide, decidedly lukewarm about Chinese investment in British technology and nuclear energy projects.
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The PM’s political hand has been strengthened in the past week by the European Council’s declaration of “sufficient progress” in the Brexit divorce talks, leading her to strike a defiant tone on the prospects for trade deals with the EU and beyond.
Private sector bosses have nevertheless expressed concern that Mrs May’s domestic political weaknesses could hamper her ability to act as a figurehead for new bilateral trade deals.