While American president Barack Obama called for closer business ties in India this weekend, Prime Minister David Cameron visits China, leading a huge trade delegation in order to boost economic ties between the two countries.
Cameron is accompanied by his chancellor, George Osborne along with some fifty leaders in British business and education as part of a two day trip to China.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, the prime minister praised China for its remarkable economic growth in recent years. Now the second largest economy in the world, “a strong relationship with China is plainly in Britain’s national interests,” he professed.
There is a strong strategic fit between our economies. China is a key export market for Britain. And as China rebalances its economy and its growing middle-class demand new and ever more high value goods, brands and services, so British companies have much to offer.
More than forty specifics agreements on trade as well as cultural and education initiatives are expected to be signed between Britain and China while Cameron is in the country. Deals already agreed include £750 million for Rolls-Royce to supply and service jet engines for China Eastern Airlines and the construction of fifty new English-language schools by Pearson. But it is “the breadth of sectors and the range of companies involved that is most promising of all,” according to Cameron. “Many small- and medium-size enterprises from Britain will be expanding into China in areas such as low carbon growth, urban design and information and communication technology.”
There is more to economic cooperation than bilateral trade however. “Both Britain and China have a huge stake in expanding global trade.” On the eve of the G20 summit in Seoul, South Korea later this week, Cameron promised to try to advance the World Trade Organization’s Doha trade round “that has frankly gone on for far too long. Next year has to see the deal done, and that means action now.”
Future world free-trade agreements are currently behind held up by opposition from many developing countries which complain that through subsidies, the West is protecting its markets against agricultural exports from the rest of the world.
The prime minister’s visit is also a chance to reaffirm political cooperation between China and the United Kingdom. “As China’s star rises in the world, so does its stake in global stability,” according to Cameron, “in the political stability necessary to keep trade routes open and energy supplies flowing. That is an interest we share.”