LONDON – The British Columbia government has opened a trade and investment office in London to strengthen the province’s economic ties with Europe and the United Kingdom.

The U.K. is Canada’s second largest trading partner and is one of the strongest markets for investment, trade and tourism for the province, states the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training.

In fact, it accounted for 44 per cent of the European tourists who visited the province in 2011 and 30 per cent of those who visited Canada from the continent that same year.

“British Columbia, with our abundant natural resources, major planned liquefied natural gas development and companies at the leading edge of clean technology, is a natural trade and investment partner for European countries,” said Pat Bell, the ministry of jobs, tourism and skills training, in a news release.

“Our international network promotes British Columbia as a stable and attractive destination for investment, tourists and international students, creating jobs here at home to support B.C. families.”

The province’s new Trade and Investment Office is located in central London, operates side-by-side with an existing tourism division, and will be led by European trade and investment representative Susan Haird.

Haird — whose career has spanned 35 years — was most recently the deputy chief executive of United Kingdom Trade and Investment.

Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, along with B.C.’s Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon and former B.C. premier and Canadian High Commissioner Gordon Campbell all attended the office’s opening Wednesday.

According to the provincial government, the European Union is the world’s largest trading blocks and has a combined GDP of $17 trillion.

Nine trade and investment representatives work on behalf of B.C. in Japan, Korea, India, Hong Kong, Europe, the U.S. and East, North and South China.