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David Cameron : Building British Cooperation With China

British Prime Minister David Cameron steps down from an aircraft upon arriving at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Andy Wong)




November 09, 2010 (WSJ) — This week I am leading one of the biggest and most high-powered British delegations ever to visit China. We aim to deliver more than 40 specific agreements across the whole range of our bilateral relationship, from trade to low-carbon growth, to cultural and education initiatives. All of it, seeking to take Britain’s relationship with China to a new level and to achieve strong co-operation on our shared economic and political interests.

China’s achievements in recent years are remarkable. With growth averaging nearly 10% a year for more than three decades, China today is the world’s second-largest economy. Over the past five years it accounted for a third of the world’s economic growth. And this economic power gives it new political influence. China today has lifted more people out of poverty than any other country at any time in human history. With the largest population in the world, and with growing economic and political influence, a strong relationship with China is plainly in Britain’s national interests.

But the relationship is not one way. Britain has much to offer China too. The U.K. is the most open economy in Europe and uniquely placed as the gateway to the European Union, China’s largest export market and the world’s largest single market. Britain is home to more than 400 mainland Chinese companies and is already ranked first in Europe for ease of doing business. And we are determined to make Britain the best country in the world in which to do business. That is why we are cutting our corporate income tax to 24%, the lowest in the G-7; creating the most competitive corporate tax regime in the G-20; cutting the time it takes to set up a new business and reducing red tape and excessive regulation.

No other country can offer the same unique advantages, whether our timezone, our language, or our universities—which include six of the best in Europe and two of the top three globally. In fact the U.K. is now China’s top European partner for joint research, which has more than quadrupled in a decade.

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 U.K. companies have much to offer.

Indeed, the U.K. Pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai—which won the Gold Award for the best Pavilion design—was a showcase for so many of Britain’s strengths, from advanced engineering to education, from low carbon to financial services to the creative industries. In all these areas and many more, British companies and British exports can help China deliver the prosperity and progress it seeks and at the same time help Britain to secure strong and sustainable growth.

On this visit alone, Britain is set to sign new contracts worth billions of dollars involving companies across the U.K. and cities all over China. It is the breadth of sectors and the range of companies involved that is most promising of all. 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.

This is in addition to at least $5 billion worth of business that British companies have secured as part of the Airbus contract concluded with China last week and a further $3 billion of investments by Tesco to develop new shopping malls over the next five years.

And with nearly 50 of Britain’s most influential culture, education and business leaders joining me on this visit, I hope these deals can be just the beginning of a new era of bilateral trade between our countries.

We are working to agree a new target to double the value of our bilateral trade with China by 2015 to more than $100 billion a year. And within this we intend to raise U.K. exports to China to $30 billion per year over the same period.

But economic cooperation goes beyond bilateral trade. Both Britain and China have a huge stake in expanding global trade. U.K. Business Minister Vince Cable was here for trade talks yesterday, and Finance Minister George Osborne will today seek to further the cooperation between our two countries through the economic and financial dialogue. On the eve of the G-20 we will be working together to do everything possible to drive progress on a 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. And we will be working in the G-20 to ensure international economic stability so that the global economy can grow strongly again without the economic and financial imbalances that led to the crisis.

But economic cooperation is only part of the story. Our countries have a very important political relationship, which we wish to nurture in the years ahead. As China’s star rises in the world, so does its stake in global stability—in the political stability necessary to keep trade routes open and energy supplies flowing. That is an interest we share. I will be meeting China’s current and future leaders, because Britain and China have long-term shared interests stretching across climate change and energy, international development and global security.

We will announce new agreements to develop co-operation on international energy supply and a new U.K.-China partnership scheme to promote low-carbon growth. We will aim to enhance cooperation in Africa and enhance China’s peacekeeping capacity.

We will discuss our shared interests in international security. We want to work with China to help in global efforts to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, and to put pressure on corrupt and intolerant regimes in Africa. We hope we can work closely together to prevent conflagration in North Korea and to improve the situation for the Burmese people.

Our relationship should be strong enough to address not only those issues on which we agree, but those on which we take a different view. We should do so with respect and mutual understanding, acknowledging our different histories. This visit offers an opportunity to discuss some of the areas where we have differences and how we might narrow them, for example through our continuing human-rights dialogue.

So I hope this visit can be a further step forward in U.K.-China relations, adding momentum to our commercial relationship and cementing an economic and political partnership that can help to deliver strong and sustainable growth and greater security for us all in the years ahead.

Mr. Cameron is prime minister of the U.K.

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