U.K.’s Cameron Urges EU-China Trade Deal

LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron will champion an agreement to liberalize trade between the European Union and China in a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Monday that could be worth up to £1.8 billion ($2.95 billion) a year for the British economy alone, the U.K. government said.

The prime minister also marked the start of a three-day trade mission to China with a visit to a training academy operated by Jaguar Land Rover, the U.K.-based unit of India’s Tata Motors Ltd. , to mark the official signing of a £4.5 billion agreement to sell 100,000 cars to the National Sales Company in China over the next year, the government said in a statement. Nobody was immediately available at the prime minister’s office to give further details about that deal.In an article in the weekly Chinese business publication Caixin, Mr. Cameron said Britain was uniquely placed to make the case for deepening the EU’s trade and investment relationship with China.

Prime Minister  Cameron“Building on the recent launch of EU-China negotiations on investment, and on China’s continued commitment to economic reform, I now want to set a new long-term goal of an ambitious and comprehensive EU-China Free Trade Agreement. And as I have on the EU-U.S. deal, so I will put my full political weight behind such a deal which could be worth tens of billions of dollars every year,” he said.

In its statement, the U.K. government said it had identified that eliminating tariffs in the 20 sectors where they are highest would save U.K. exporters approximately $1 billion a year. The U.K. has significant sectoral strengths in these high-tariff areas, which include vehicles, pharmaceuticals, and mechanical and electrical goods, and which together account for 36% of U.K. exports to China, it said.

Mr. Cameron has made increasing trade to developing markets like China a key aim of his foreign policy in an effort to offset the impact of economic problems in European trading partners. This is the second time that Mr. Cameron has visited China as prime minister, having taken a trade mission to the Asian giant in November 2010 after becoming prime minister earlier that year.

This second visit is being seen as a confirmation of a thaw in bilateral relations since Mr. Cameron angered Beijing by meeting the Dalai Lama last year. Nevertheless, despite that diplomatic upset, official data show total British exports to China in the first three quarters of this year were 20% higher than in 2010 as a whole.

While the EU-China trade deal will take time to negotiate, the prime minister will use his visit to press for closer cooperation in other areas. Inward investment into Britain from China is expected to get a boost when the Chinese ministry responsible for authorizing major overseas investments signs a deal—the first of its kind between China and a European partner—backing Chinese companies to invest in Britain, the government said.

The U.K. government has courted Chinese investment in its infrastructure and is working hard to make London the main offshore market for the Chinese currency. Last month China General Nuclear Corp. and China National Nuclear Corp. signed an agreement to hold between 30% and 40% of a new venture, led by French power utility Électricité de France SA, to build two new nuclear reactors in southwestern England.

– WALL STREET JOURNAL

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