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Cameron in No 10 talks to seal trade deals with China

Published 21/10/2015

From left, Prime Minister David Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May, the Queen and Chinese president Xi Jinping on the first day of his state visit to the UK
From left, Prime Minister David Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May, the Queen and Chinese president Xi Jinping on the first day of his state visit to the UK

David Cameron will host talks with Xi Jinping at Downing Street as he seeks to cement multi-billion trade deals during the Chinese president's four-day state visit to the UK.

Investment by Beijing in Britain's first UK nuclear power plant in a generation is expected to be confirmed as part of what the Government hopes will amount altogether to £30 billion of agreements.

But the lavish welcome given to the president was attacked as a "national humiliation" by a former close adviser to the Prime Minister, who is under pressure to raise concerns about human rights and "dumped" cheap steel blamed for the loss of thousands of British jobs.

Ex-Number 10 policy guru Steve Hilton said the UK should be imposing sanctions, not rolling out the red carpet.

Downing Street has fiercely resisted claims the UK is "kowtowing" to the Chinese and insisted no subjects were off the table for the leaders' meetings - which will also include lunch at the PM's rural retreat Chequers tomorrow.

The visit began with a day of pomp and ceremony, culminating in a dazzling Buckingham Palace state banquet in honour of the visiting head of state at which the Queen said there was "much reason to celebrate the dynamic, growing economic relationship between our countries".

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn - who did not defy convention and joined Mr Cameron and other guests in white tie - used a private meeting at the Palace with Mr Xi to raise a number of issues including human rights and the steel crisis.

Politicians will take the lead today, with Mr Cameron also jointly hosting a UK-China business summit with the president and George Osborne accompanying Mr Xi - with the Duke of York - on a visit to Imperial College, London.

The Chancellor made a high-profile visit to China last month to smooth the path to the deals.

Ministers claim the potential investment will create more than 3,900 jobs across the UK.

French energy giant EDF will give an update on its new nuclear power site at Hinkley Point in Somerset as it prepares to make a final investment decision.

There has been speculation that China will own a third of the new power station, which was priced at £16 billion in 2012, but is set to cost over £24 billion when inflation and financing costs are taken into account.

Among other initiatives being trumpeted is a £325 million package of partnerships in the creative and technology, including a £50 million deal between Aston Martin and China Equity to develop its zero-emission RapidE sports car.

There will also be a big cut in the cost of repeat-visit visas for Chinese tourists in the hope of attracting more high-spending visitors from the fast-expanding Far Eastern economy.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: "Global partnerships are essential in building a Britain that is stronger, more prosperous and full of opportunity.

"Deals like those announced today will ensure our economy remains resilient and our businesses feel well-equipped to face the future.

But Mr Hilton, who left Downing Street in 2012 to teach at California's Stanford University and is CEO of tech start-up Crowdpac, told Newsnight the visit was " one of the worst national humiliations we've seen since we went cap in hand to the IMF in the 1970s".

"The truth is that China is a rogue state just as bad as Russia or Iran, and I just don't understand why we're sucking up to them rather than standing up to them as we should be," he said.

"I think that we have to be much tougher - I think that we should consider sanctions on China, not rolling out the red carpet."

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