- `Historic' stake taken in EDF's Hinkley Point nuclear plant
- Xi says China steel, iron industry suffering over-capacity
China and the U.K. signed a slew of business deals as their leaders hailed a new era of growing ties between the two economies, downplaying security concerns and tensions between their steel industries.
Energy, tourism and health care were among the industries to get a boost on Wednesday as Chinese President Xi Jinping continued his four-day visit to Britain. The headline pact was the Asian nation’s securing of a stake in Electricite de France SA’s Hinkley Point project, Britain’s first nuclear plant in three decades and the most expensive atomic energy station ever.
Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking at a joint press conference with Xi in London, said the deal was “historic” and underscored their determination “to take the relationship to the next level.”
Rolls Royce signed a 2.4 billion-pound ($3.7 billion) accord to develop engines with China’s HNA Group, Carnival Plc entered a joint venture on new cruise ships and BP Plc rubber-stamped oil and gas agreements worth some 12 billion pounds in China, according to Cameron. Health-care deals and collaborations worth more than 2 billion pounds were also signed between universities and companies including Shanghai United Imaging. The U.K. government said earlier in the week that Xi’s visit would garner more than 30 billion pounds in deals and investment, creating 3,900 jobs.
“I hope the U.K. will continue to be a trend setter and example of openness and inclusiveness in carrying out cooperation with China,” Xi said in a speech following a banquet at Guildhall in London on Wednesday evening. He encouraged the U.K. “to fulfill its aspiration to become China’s strongest advocate in the west.”
The pacts came midway through Xi’s tour which Cameron has declared as proof of a “golden era” in trade and political relations between the two nations. Xi said on Tuesday that the two countries are becoming “increasingly interdependent.”
Not all British businesses are celebrating. Tata Steel Ltd., the U.K.’s biggest producer, this week blamed its decision to ax 1,200 jobs on a flood of cheap exports from the Asian country, which churns out about half the world’s steel.
Cameron said that he had raised the matter with Xi and that China’s leaders “do recognize they have huge capacity in their own industry and they have to address that.” Xi said that China’s iron and steel industry was facing excess capacity, with its own workforce suffering the fallout.
Xi’s visit, which included an overnight stay and state dinner at Buckingham Palace, comes three years since Cameron’s meeting with the Dalai Lama resulted in a diplomatic freeze.
A thaw began after the U.K. ignored U.S. criticism to become the first major western country to apply for membership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and as London pioneers the issuance of yuan-denominated sovereign bonds -- both developments singled out for praise by Xi. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has said he wants China to be the U.K.’s biggest trading partner within a decade.
During his speech at Guildhall, Xi showed his familiarity with British popular culture and literature by mentioning Harry Potter, James Bond, Jane Austen and the television series Downton Abbey. He also described how he became captivated by Shakespeare’s plays when he was 16 years old, herding sheep in northwestern China.
“To be, or not be ... that line from Hamlet had a lasting impression on me,” he said.