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Cameron’s visit ‘fruitful’, says Chinese premier

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 9, 2010

BBC: The Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, has called David Cameron’s visit to China “fruitful”.

David Cameron arrived for his first prime ministerial visit to the world’s second largest economy

The prime minister, who is accompanied by four cabinet ministers and 43 business leaders, called the trip a “vitally important trade mission”.

Engine maker Rolls-Royce has won a $1.2bn (£750m) contract – the biggest of the visit so far.

But pressure is mounting on Mr Cameron to raise the issue of China’s human rights record.

The two men met at a formal reception in the Great Hall of the People, as Mr Cameron arrived on his first trip as prime minister to the country.

Speaking to BBC political editor Nick Robinson, Mr Cameron suggested the issue would be discussed.

“We have a really high-level dialogue with China on all sorts of issues, ranging from the economic and trade and business, and yes, of course, human rights, too. And that’s as it should be,” he said.

“Of course we shouldn’t be lecturing or hectoring, but it’s right we have a dialogue about these things, and that’s what our relationship does.”

But the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who says he was recently put under house arrest by the Chinese authorities, said Mr Cameron must make a public statement about China’s human rights record.

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It is a reminder of how limited is the power of our government to even express deep concern let alone do anything about China’s continued policy of repression and opposition to democracy”

image of Nick  RobinsonNick RobinsonBBC political editor

“You owe Chinese people, the people who sacrifice their rights,” he said.

“You have to do it publicly, not just privately. This is not going to work. Because privately we all know this is wrong and we don’t even have to mention it.”

‘Closer engagement’

Mr Cameron promised “closer engagement” with China, and said “banging the drum for trade” is key to UK foreign policy.

“Our message is simple: Britain is now open for business, has a very business-friendly government, and wants to have a much, much stronger relationship with China,” he said.

Chancellor George Osborne, “China is reaching a stage of its economic development where it is more likely to want the kinds of things Britain is good at.”

Rolls-Royce’s $1.2bn contract is to supply a Chinese airline with Trent 700 engines for 16 Airbus A330 aircraft, along with long-term servicing.

Business Secretary Vince Cable, who arrived in Beijing ahead of the prime minister, previously signed an agreement that will allow the export of British breeding pigs to China, home to half of the world’s pig population.

That deal – and future business stemming from the agreement – is valued at about £45m to the British pig industry over the next five years.

The Chinese and British authorities also reached a deal to ensure only whisky produced in Scotland would be marketed in China as scotch, a move some estimate will increase sales by tens of millions of pounds.

Some of the other deals include:

  • three multi-million pound contracts with a fee value of more than £4m for London-based architects and designers Benoy
  • an agreement between Clyde Blowers and Yima Coal Industry Group to supply coal injection technology for three gasifiers – a deal worth £2m
  • machine maker Group Rhodes is signing a contract with Xinhang, a second-tier supplier to the Chinese aerospace industry, worth £1.8m.

‘Huge opportunity’

Mr Cameron’s first stop after landing at Beijing airport was a Tesco supermarket, where he met staff and shoppers.

China has 99 outlets of the British store, which first opened in the country in 2004 and is planning a £2bn investment over the next five years.

Tesco’s executive director Lucy Neville-Rolfe, who is part of the business delegation, said: “China obviously represents a huge opportunity for growth, with large numbers of consumers and a government which thinks that expanding internal consumption is important.”

Chancellor George Osborne has said that this is not a new chapter in British relations with China, but that the country had reached a stage in its development where it was “more likely to want the things which Britain is good at”.

These included financial services, insurance and luxury goods, he added.

Currently, exports to China, although growing fast, are relatively small compared with other markets. For example, the UK exports twice as much to the Irish Republic as to China.

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