4 Sep 2016

May seeks to calm Brexit fears in China

HANGZHOU, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 04: Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) welcomes British Prime Minister Theresa May to the G20 Summit on September 4, 2016 in Hangzhou, China. World leaders are gathering in Hangzhou for the 11th G20 Leaders Summit from September 4 to 5. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Theresa May hasn’t been to China before. She hasn’t been to one of these summits before. And she comes to this one having to explain why Brexit, which the G20 tried to warn Britain off, won’t bring ruin to the world economy.

This afternoon she has been telling world leaders that Brexit will be stable and orderly. Though even as she spoke details emerged (thanks to Faisal Islam at Sky News) of the Japanese Government’s demands for protection of Japanese investments in the UK.

It’s a chunky 15 pages of demands which can broadly be summarised as: “We came to the UK expecting the single market and full access to the EU, it could be bad news if we don’t continue to get it.”

Downing Street suggested this was an opening bid, rather in manner of trade talks. But the language is pretty stark.

The PM has had bi-laterals which have included a meeting with President Obama and another with President Putin.

At the latter, Mr Putin appeared to suggest relations might be restored with a new broom in Downing Street. Mrs May, diplomatically, appeared to say the deep concerns about Russian policy wouldn’t allow that.

The Barack Obama meeting focused on trade, the President suggesting the two countries could start “consultations” to look at issues over trade. Officials say this won’t be able to go too far while Britain is still in the EU because of “live” trade talks (for now, at least) between the EU and the US.

Tomorrow, the PM meets the Australian PM and is hoping to unveil a slightly more advanced type of exploratory trade talks as that wouldn’t be stepping on the EU’s toes.

Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, turned down his own Chinese energy investment offer last month and Theresa May may be asking advice on what follows if you dare to challenge the proud Chinese government on such a high-profile issue.

This is one of China’s ancient capitals, famed for its lakeside scenery and mountain backdrop. More recently it’s been exploding with economic growth. Factories were shut down to limit the smoggy product of that growth. On the basis of today’s experience, I’m not sure they nipped the problem in time.

The Chinese authorities also tried to banish the bustle normally associated with this city. An estimated 3 million inhabitants have been financially induced to get out of town.

I’d love to see the neighbouring towns where aunties have been inundated with neglectful relations turning up because their presence makes Hanghzhou simply too crowded and untidy.

The tower blocks are part empty, the roads are often completely empty and even for a Sunday a very small number of shops have actually opened.

The signs proclaim the city is “civilised and polite” but if you’re a journalist here with a camera crew you’re not allowed to film outside the conference complex so that is quite hard to verify,

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