Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

China 'open to a bilateral trade arrangement with the UK'

Published 05/09/2016

Theresa May arriving in China
Theresa May arriving in China

The prospect of a major free trade deal between the UK and China was raised by Xi Jinping in talks with Theresa May following the G20 summit after she said the "golden era" in relations with Beijing would continue.

A deal with the Asian superpower would be a major boost to the UK and new Prime Minister and comes despite the delay on whether to press ahead with the Chinese-backed Hinkley Point nuclear plant.

A Number 10 official said Mr Xi understood why Mrs May felt the need to take a fresh look at agreements made by her predecessor.

Although Hinkley Point was not specifically mentioned he said "he recognised the new Government would need to take some time before reaching decisions on some agreements pushed by the last government", the source said.

"President Xi said that they had the patience to wait for a resolution on those issues.

"He said that they wanted to look at how we could strengthen our trading and economic relationship and that China was open to a bilateral trade arrangement with the UK."

Mrs May said she was hoping to visit China next year.

Downing Street said the 30-minute meeting was "warm" and Mr Xi even referred to the UK on finishing second in the Rio Olympics medal table - ahead of China.

Before the meeting in Hangzhou, Mrs May insisted that the UK's "global strategic partnership" with Beijing will continue.

And she said that other world leaders had been "very keen" on talks on new trade agreements with the UK in the wake of its withdrawal from the European Union.

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said he wants a "very strong" free trade agreement after talks with Mrs May on the sidelines of the Hangzhou summit and his trade minister will visit London later this week to take the project forward.

Mrs May said that the leaders of India, Mexico, South Korea and Singapore had also told her that they would welcome talks on removing barriers to trade.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe is understood to have pushed for greater clarity about Mrs May's plans during a brief meeting after his administration earlier issued a 15-page document setting out the assurances on the future of the economy being sought by Japanese companies operating in the UK.

The country's ambassador in London warned Japanese firms could move operations to the continent unless the UK remained the best place for them to be based.

Mrs May told a press conference in Hangzhou: "What I have found good about the discussions I've had with a number of world leaders, including discussions I had with Prime Minister Abe, is the willingness of other countries to talk with the UK about future trade arrangements and the confidence that they have in the United Kingdom."

She added: "I'm confident and others have been confident about the relationship we can build with them."

Asked whether her decision to delay final approval for the planned nuclear power plant in Somerset had damaged UK relations with her hosts, Mrs May said: "A decision about Hinkley will be made later this month, but our relationship with China is about more than Hinkley.

"If you look at the investment that there has been from China in various other parts of the UK and other infrastructure in the UK, we have built a global strategic partnership with China.

"I've been clear we will be continuing that global strategic partnership with China. It is a golden era of relations between China and the UK."

The official communique signed by the G20 leaders acknowledged the potential impact of Brexit and called for close ties between the UK and EU after the break from Brussels happens.

The document said: "The outcome of the referendum on the UK's membership of the EU adds to the uncertainty in the global economy. Members of the G20 are well positioned to proactively address the potential economic and financial consequences stemming from the referendum.

"In the future, we hope to see the UK as a close partner of the EU."

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph