27 Jun 2011

China and UK in £1.4bn trade deal

Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao sign a new deal worth £1.4bn for British business at a summit in Downing Street.

China and UK are set to sign £1bn of trade deals (Reuters)

The two leaders signed an agreement enabling UK firms to expand in China’s fast growing regional cities, beyond just Beijing and Shanghai. David Cameron announced that the agreement was worth £1.4bn to British business, creating opportunities in architecture, civil engineering and research and development.

Food trade deals will also be signed at the Downing Street meeting. The British poultry market will be allowed to export to China and there will also be a deal on the supply of pigs.

As well as boosting British growth by capitalising on China’s expanding economy, the meeting is also seen as a chance to discuss China’s dubious human rights record. It’s an ongoing issue for western nations hoping to work with China economically – one which Mr Cameron did tackle, albeit briefly, on his visit to China last year.

On human rights, China and the UK should respect each other, respect the facts, treat each other as equals, engage in more co-operation than finger-pointing. Premier Wen Jiabao

Premier Wen also announced that China is to give a pair of giant pandas to Edinburgh zoo. Pandas Tian Tian and Yangguang, a breeding pair born in 2003, will be on loan to the zoo by the end of the year.

The release of dissident Hu Jia over the weekend follows that of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei last week, but many still feel China is not doing enough.

Protests greeted Mr Wen’s arrival at Longbridge car plant in the West Midlands on Sunday, their banners pleading: “Cameron and Wen. Human rights before trade.”

There have also been some small demonstrations in London, although those chanting critical slogans such as “shame on China” were outnumbered by pro-China demonstrators.

China's Wen snaps back at human rights 

"Premier Wen repeated the regular line that the West shouldn't indulge in "finger pointing" after hearing Mr Cameron repeat what he said in Beijing in November, that economic development needs democratic development," writes Political Editor Gary Gibbon.

"'Finger pointing' isn't usually a word used in front of a host dignitary though. And in another answer Premier Wen said how much he's read of Shakespeare then suggested it would be a good idea if more Westerners read something of China's literature and history. I'm no sinologist but this sounded to me a bit at the more snappish end of Chinese diplo-speak."

Read more from Gary Gibbon on the Politics Blog

David Cameron insisted on Monday that human rights were not “off limits” with China, saying he would always raise difficult questions about justice and political freedoms.

Meanwhile, Wen said Britain and Beijing had to treat each other as “equals” on human rights.

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

‘Next step’ in UK and China relationship

The Chinese leader arrived in the UK on Saturday for a three-day visit. He has already visited Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, as well as Longbridge. Other items on the visit’s agenda include strengthening cultural ties between the UK and China, and increased co-operation on issues including security and climate change.A Downing Street spokeswoman said Mr Wen’s visit would mark “the nest step in our strengthened relationship” with China.

Read more: an expert's guide to the best of Chinese literature 

She said: “China’s rapid economic rise is good news for the UK. It means more money flowing into our economies and has the potential to create more jobs and investment opportunities for British business at home and in China.

“The summit will be an opportunity to tap that potential and to continue to work closely with China to find global solutions to a range of issues from climate change to global security.”