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LONDON, Jan 11 (KATAKAMI / AFP) – Britain and China have signed trade deals worth £2.6 billion and announced Beijing will loan a pair of giant pandas to Edinburgh Zoo for 10 years.
The agreements were inked during talks in London between Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
Britain has rolled out the red carpet for Li, who is widely tipped to become Chinese premier next year, as it scrambles to catch up with European rivals Germany and France in landing business deals with booming China.
On the second day of his visit to Britain on Monday, Li also held talks with Prime Minister David Cameron.
On Tuesday he will receive a royal welcome from Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, and will make a speech at a banquet organised by the British Council.
The trade agreements include a commitment by Jaguar Land Rover to increase sales of vehicles in China to the 40,000 mark this year in a deal which the automaker said was worth Â£1bln.
“We had successful talks covering a range of issues, and we witnessed the signing of a number of agreements, including commercial deals with an estimated contract value of at least 2.6 billion pounds,” Clegg said.
In other deals, BP and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation signed an agreement on deepwater exploration in the South China Sea.
Petro-chemical group INEOS agreed to work more closely with China National Petroleum Corporation, which the British company said would lead to increased investment in its refineries in Britain and France.
The talks also covered international security and climate change “in which the UK and China work closely together”, a British government statement said.
It was also announced that China will loan a breeding pair of giant pandas — named Tian Tian and Yuangguang, which translates to Sweetie and Sunshine — to Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland for 10 years.
The pair, born in 2003, will be the first pandas in Britain for 17 years and the move “will boost research, conservation and tourism in Scotland and the UK”, the statement said.
The project is the result of five years of high-level political and diplomatic negotiation.
“Pandas are a Chinese national treasure. This historical agreement is a gift to the people of the UK from China,” said Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming.
“It will represent an important symbol of our friendship and will bring our two people closer together.”
Li has already visited Spain and Germany on his European visit, accompanied by a 150-strong business and political delegation.
Writing in the Financial Times on Monday, he said the world should not fear a rapidly growing China.
“China’s development benefits other countries,” Li wrote. “We welcome the entry into our market of competitive goods and services from around the world, and will provide a fair and even more transparent environment for foreign investors.”
Li added that “reform and opening-up are the driving forces behind our development”, but warned that “China’s development will not be possible without the world — and world development needs China”.
The visit follows Cameron’s trip to China in November, when he was the first Western leader to visit the country since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
While he did not publicly confront Chinese leaders over human rights, Cameron used a speech to university students to call for “greater political opening” as the Chinese economy surges forward.
Deputy premier Clegg has insisted that “no subject will be off limits” during the talks in the four-day British visit.
Cameron’s Beijing visit produced deals worth around one billion pounds to British companies. In contrast, Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to France in November yielded 20 billion dollars of contracts. (*)