UK and China sign £14bn trade deals

Maldon and Burnham Standard: David Cameron is set to renew acquaintances with Li Keqiang. David Cameron is set to renew acquaintances with Li Keqiang.

Deals worth £14 billion between Britain and China were signed today as David Cameron and premier Li Keqiang held talks in Downing Street.

The Prime Minister hailed the burgeoning trade links between the two countries, which is "central" to the plan to revitalise the UK's economy.

Chinese investment into the UK in the last 18 months than in the last 30 years, he added at a press conference in Downing Street.

"Today we have signed deals worth more than £14 billion, securing jobs and long term economic growth for the British and Chinese people," Mr Cameron said.

"Ours is truly a partnership for growth, reform and innovation."

Mr Cameron added: "In the last few years we have made a huge difference and built a much stronger bilateral and trading relationship between our countries.

"The figures tell the story - bilateral trade at record levels, our exports to China up 15% in 2013, they have more than doubled in the last five years and at a billion a month, they are growing faster than France's or Germany's."

Activists campaigning for a variety of causes, including Tibetan independence, staged a colourful and noisy protest opposite the gates of Downing Street while the two men met. Protest chants could be heard outside No 10 as Mr Cameron and Mr Li shook hands and posed for photographers at the door.

Mr Cameron's decision to meet exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama during a visit to London two years ago infuriated Beijing, plunging Sino-British relations into deep freeze at a time when the Government had been trying to open up trade opportunities with the rapidly growing Chinese economy.

The visit by Mr Li marks the latest stage in a painstaking diplomatic rehabilitation effort.

Ahead of the visit, however, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the Government would not shy away from raising China's "large scale and systematic" human rights abuses.

Mr Cameron said China's economic growth meant it had "greater responsibilities on the world stage".

"As fellow members of the UN Security Council we both have responsibilities for upholding international peace and security and the rule of law.

"We stand ready to work with our Chinese colleagues."

Premier Li said China and the UK should view each other's economic development "as an opportunity".

He added: "We both believe that we should increase mutual political trust, engage in equal co-operation and accommodate each other's core interests and major concerns to solidify the political foundation of bilateral ties."

Earlier Mr Li met the Queen at Windsor Castle, where dozens of his countrymen and women flocked to see him arrive.

Asked about Mr Clegg's comments, Mr Li said: "For me I don't really expect there will be uniform opinion about issues in this country."

But he defended China's record on human rights, adding: "It is prescribed in China's constitution that human rights must be respected and protected in China.

"To achieve and advance human rights, the Chinese people themselves have made strenuous efforts to achieve the right to subsistence and right to develop for themselves.

"Over the last 30 years and more China has lifted 600 million of its people out of poverty and I also believe there are diverse dimensions to the issue of human rights and countries which are at different stages of development, with different historical and cultural backgrounds, may see this issue of human rights from different perspectives."

He added: "I believe on many issues our two countries can learn a lot from each other and at the same time we are also choosing our own path in accordance with our national conditions.

"I believe that as long as our two countries continue to respect each other and pursue co-operation on the basis of equality, there will be growing areas where I'm sure we can continue to draw upon each other's experience."

Mr Li defended the comments made ahead of his visit by China's ambassador in London Liu Xiaoming, who indicated that the UK had fallen behind France and Germany in Beijing's estimation.

The premier said: "I talked about this with our Chinese ambassador here. He said to me that when he first came to the UK as Chinese ambassador he often heard people say 'the UK, France and Germany' were the three major European countries, in that sequence.

"Three years later in the UK he now heard people talk about these countries in the sequence 'Germany, France and the UK'.

"I asked about how he looked at this matter and he said to me as Chinese ambassador to this country he certainly hopes that China's relationship with the UK will be at the forefront of Chinese relationships with all the European countries."

Mr Li added: "I hope you will understand this anxious feeling of our ambassador here."

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