The British prime minister's visit to China comes ahead of a G20 summit in South Korea later this week [Reuters]

David Cameron, the British prime minister, has arrived in China with senior cabinet members for a three-day visit that aims to boost trade ties.

Cameron, accompanied by four cabinet ministers and about 50 business leaders from some of Britain's biggest companies, says he wants to take his country's relationship with the world's second-largest economy "to a new level" by doubling bilateral trade with China to more than $100bn a year by 2015.

On his first official visit to China since taking office in May, Cameron said he wanted British exports to account for $30bn of that sum - more than two double the $12.4bn in 2009.

Cameron is due to meet Wen Jiabao, China's prime minister, later on Tuesday, and Hu Jintao, China's president, on Wednesday.

The British prime minister also hopes to address his country's staggering trade deficit while in Beijing.

Sealing deals

Cameron is heading Britain's biggest-ever trade delegation to China and hopes to cut deals while the government slashes spending at home.

George Osborne, chancellor of the exchequer, arrived a day ahead of Cameron to meet with Wang Qishan, China's deputy prime minister. After welcoming Osborne, Wang said China had made overtures to British business interests and hoped Britain would do the same.

"China has already made positive progress in resolving Britain's concern about market access, the protection of intellectual property rights and other issues," Qishan said.

"We hope that Britain earnestly takes action to relax restrictions on hi-tech exports to China and recognise China as a market economy as soon as possible, and create good conditions for Chinese companies investing in Britain."

Last year, China was Britain's third-largest source of imports and ninth-largest export market.

Osborne said he hoped the trip would deepen bilateral trade and investment and reduce protectionism, ahead of the upcoming Doha round of trade talks.

"It is a two-way street. And I think there is a huge potential at this stage of our countries' economic development for an expanded economic and commercial relationship," Osborne said.

"As consumption in China grows and as Britain focuses on exports, this is an opportunity we should not miss."

The UK delegation includes senior executives from Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Barclays bank and Diageo PLC, among others.

A number of deals have already been announced, including measures to boost sales of Scotch whisky and allow the import of breeding pigs into China.

Cameron said British companies had secured $5bn worth of business as part of a deal signed by China with Airbus in France last week.

British retailer Tesco plans to build $3bn in new shopping malls in China over five years.

Educational publisher Pearson also announced plans on Tuesday to open 50 new English-language centres in China, creating up to 2,000 jobs.

Political context

The UK prime minister also said the two countries wanted to work together to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and to prevent conflagration in North Korea.

He said he was also interested in a dialogue on human rights. The recent Nobel Prize for jailed Chinese political dissident Liu Xiaobo has infuriated China, and Britain has called for Liu to be released.

The British prime minister's visit to China comes ahead of a G20 summit in South Korea later this week.

The visit is Cameron's second major trip to court an emerging economy following a high-profile visit to India in July.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama, the US president, left India on Tuesday after a three-day visit mostly focused on building trade ties with the world's second most populous nation.

Source: Agencies