U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang, agreed to work together to spur growth in their two countries after talks in London.
Setting a target for trade of $100 billion by the end of next year, Li said British technology could be deployed in China and harnessed with Chinese markets and labor to benefit both nations.
“The U.K. has advanced technology that can be married with China’s vast markets, and by doing so we can create huge energy,” Li told a joint news conference after the talks at Cameron’s London residence yesterday, speaking through an interpreter. “We should not only expand our bilateral trade to $100 billion, but also make our cooperation of better quality and greater content.”
Trade deals valued at 14 billion pounds ($24 billion) were signed, Cameron told reporters, as Li’s visit confirmed the end of a three-year diplomatic freeze caused by arguments over human rights and Tibet.
Among the 12 agreements, BP Plc signed a $20 billion 20-year deal to supply liquefied natural gas to China National Offshore Oil Corp. Royal Dutch Shell Plc also signed an agreement with CNOOC on a global strategic alliance, as well as a short-term LNG supply contract. Other accords covered nuclear cooperation and infrastructure financing.
“Ours is truly a partnership for growth, reform and innovation,” Cameron said. “There’s been more Chinese investment into the United Kingdom in the last 18 months than in the whole of the last 30 years combined.”
The two leaders also discussed high-speed rail, raising the possibility that China could invest in the U.K.’s HS2 project, which will link London with Birmingham and northern English cities.
China Merchants Securities Co. Ltd., China’s third-largest securities firm by net capital, opened its first London office yesterday, creating 40 jobs, the U.K. Department for Business said in an e-mailed statement. MAP Environmental Ltd. and ZNShine also signed a 400 million-pound agreement to develop solar power in Britain.
Li said British involvement in China could help balance the Chinese economy, while offering opportunities for growth.
“China’s hinterland and the western region is far away in terms of development from the eastern region,” Li said. “This imbalance entails growth potential, so China and the U.K. should view each other’s development as an opportunity.”
Li said China wants to see a strong and prosperous European Union and, in answer to questions about the referendum to be held in September on whether Scotland should become independent, said he wants to see a prosperous and united U.K.
In another move aimed at improving ties, Britain said two days ago it will make it easier for Chinese visitors to apply for visas. Home Secretary Theresa May announced easier forms for visa applicants from China and an agreement to allow travelers from China or India to come to the U.K. on an Irish visa.