A PARTY of 22 high ranking Chinese officials visited Worcestershire as part of programme to encourage trade and develop business relationships.

They met with council chiefs, local business and educational institutions, as well as taking in tourist attractions such as Stanbrook Abbey at Callow End, the Malvern Hills and Morgan Motors.

The delegation was visiting as part of the World Cities programme, which has made funding available to four regions of Europe to develop relationships with regions in China. The UK's Mercia region, which includes Worcestershire, was successful in its application to work with the regions of Tianjin and Guangzhou in China.

Clare Marchant, chief executive of Worcestershire County Council, said: "The World Cities programme is a fantastic way to ensure Worcestershire continues to flourish economically through encouraging greater links with foreign partners. We are delighted that Mercia's application to work with the regions of Tianjin and Guangzhou was successful, and believe that our involvement will only enhance Worcestershire's profile to a global audience."

Adrian Hardman, leader of the Council, added: "It was a pleasure to meet the delegation, and I think both parties gained a great deal from the visit. I look forward to our continued partnership, and hope the delegates enjoyed visiting World Class Worcestershire."

Gary Woodman, executive director of Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "The collaboration with Tianjin and Guangzhou presents a huge range of opportunities for Mercia, and for Worcestershire in particular. Worcestershire is the fastest growing county economy in the country, and working with international partners of this calibre will help ensure that we continue to attract varied and high quality investment."

Pablo Gandara, lead for the European Commission World Cities Programme, concluded: "The visit to the West Midlands has been well received by the Chinese delegation. They have been able to get a clear picture of the strengths of the region and the opportunities available to them here. I am confident that these opportunities will be developed by both sides and the relationships with Guangzhou and Tianjin will go from strength to strength."