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China and UK sign $2.2bn trade deals
Wen Jiabao and David Cameron unveil new deals amid discussions on China's rights record and role in Libya conflict.
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2011 15:07
Wen and Cameron discussed China's human rights record while anti and pro China protesters gathered nearby [AFP]

Britain and China have announced a series of trade deals worth $2.3bn during a visit to London by Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, who batted away questions about his country's human rights record.

Wen and David Cameron, the British prime minister, signed the deal on Monday following a series of talks with ministers from both sides at Downing Street.

Cameron said that he was "delighted" to introduce the new deals, as they signal the beginning of a plan to increase bilateral trade to $100bn by 2015.

"To achieve that, both countries must continue to make the case for mutual commitment to market access," Cameron said.

Monday's signing is in line with the British government's strategy of expanding business with fast-growing emerging markets to help offset lagging domestic demand at a time of sharp spending cuts.

Britain is scrambling to catch up with European rivals Germany and France, the latter of which secured contracts worth $20bn for French firms last year.

Cameron's coalition government, which took office last May, has since made increased trade with China a priority.

The British gas company BG Group said on Monday that as part of the trade deals, it had signed a co-operation agreement with Bank of China allowing up to $1.5bn of new funding options to support BG's growth plans in the Asian country.

Human rights

As part of wide-ranging discussions, Cameron said, the two leaders discussed China's human rights record as well as Beijing's role in the ongoing NATO military operations in Libya, in which Britain is playing a lead role.

China has clamped down heavily on dissent this year, silencing scores of activists through arrests, though it released Ai Weiweim, a prominent artist and activist, last week and Hu Jia, a high-profile dissident, on Sunday.

A small crowd of protesters gathered outside Downing Street for the talks, carrying posters reading "Cameron and Wen: human rights before trade" and "Free Tibet". A similarly sized pro-China demonstration gathered nearby.

Wen, who flew into Britain late Saturday as part of a European tour, responded that there should not be "finger-pointing" at his country over human rights.

The men also discussed the ongoing NATO military operations in Libya, in which Britain is playing a lead role.

In a rare comment, the Chinese premier also said Beijing was talking to both NATO and Libya, because the conflict would only be resolved by Libyans themselves.

"Foreign troops may be able to win war in a place, but they can hardly win peace," Wen said.

"We hope that the issue of Libya will be resolved through political, peaceful means to reduce the humanitarian harm - in particular the harm of innocent civilians."

Source:
Agencies
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