China signs $4.3 billion deals with UK

Premier Wen Jiabao walks with British Prime Minister David Cameron toward 10 Downing Street in central London on Monday. [Photo/Agencies]

During talks at 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the British prime minister, the two leaders signed 12 agreements and restated their desire to double bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2015.

On human rights, Wen said at a news conference that there should not be any “finger-pointing” at China over the issue.

British gas company BG Group signed an agreement with Bank of China that allowed for up to $1.5 billion of new funding options to support BG’s growth plans.

The Chinese poultry market will be reopened to UK exports, which were halted after a bird flu outbreak at a farm in eastern England in 2007, and Britain will supply breeding pigs to China, the British media reported.

The agreements will help British companies work with China in several key areas, including architecture, civil engineering, remote sensing satellite and research and development.

Analysts noted that Britain is scrambling to catch up with European rivals France and Germany in striking trade deals with China.

Cameron visited China in November, the same month that France secured contracts for French companies worth $19.1 billion.

British exports have increased 20 percent since Cameron’s visit, and London is seeking deals to enable British businesses to branch out beyond Beijing and Shanghai into fast-growing regional cities.

When asked about the fact, at a joint news conference, that Chinese money is funding the next generation of railways in the UK, Cameron said he welcomes investment from abroad. On whether he had raised human rights during the talks, Cameron said: “Britain and China have such a strong and developed relationship. We have a dialogue that covers all these issues, and nothing is off limits in the discussions that we have.”

Wen said that on human rights, China and the UK should “respect each other, respect the facts, treat each other as equals, and resolve differences through dialogue”.

Wen stressed that China has been pursuing “political structural reform and improvement of democracy and the rule of law” as well as economic growth.

The two leaders also discussed cultural and educational exchanges between China and the UK and global issues such as international security, Libya and climate change.

Wen said China was talking to both sides in Libya because the conflict would only be resolved by Libyans themselves, adding: “Foreign troops may be able to win a war, but they can hardly win peace.”

Wen said that China and the UK will set up a high-level cultural exchange mechanism and offered two pandas to Edinburgh Zoo as gifts.

The summit builds on Cameron’s visit to China last year, which secured a range of commercial and government arrangements, including a Rolls Royce deal worth $1.2 billion.

This was followed by the visit to the UK by Vice-Premier Li Keqiang when deals worth $2.6 billion were concluded in January.

Kerry Brown, senior fellow at London-based Chatham House, told China Daily that the key points for the UK are having deeper trade links with China, being partners on environmental issues as well as in high-tech areas, and attracting more Chinese investment.

“China is now a much bigger economy than the UK, and this has happened in a very short period of time. So the UK has to pick its strategic interests with China very carefully, because in many ways it is now a much smaller player,” Brown said.

The UK wants to encourage China to further develop its financial sector, an area of British expertise, and to work together on creative industries, Brown added.

Duncan Freeman, senior research fellow from the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies, said that there are a number of areas where the UK and China can cooperate.

Both sides need to commit themselves to ensuring that their economies remain open to trade and investment and guarantee that stable long-term growth is achieved through sustainable policies, Freeman said.

Wen addressed the Royal Society in London on Monday afternoon.

He arrived in Berlin late on Monday and will hold a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday.

China Daily

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