Brown looks to boost China ties

British PM says he wants UK to be top choice for Chinese trade and investment.

    Brown is under pressure to raise the issue of
    human rights with Chinese officials [AFP]

    Brown arrived in China on Friday, bringing with him a high-profile delegation of business leaders hoping to increase trade with the world's fastest-growing major economy.


    In preliminary talks on Friday in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Brown and Wen agreed to expand trade to a value of $60 billion by 2010, compared with about $40 billion last year.


    The two leaders also oversaw the signing of agreements on education cooperation, climate change, and several deals involving British energy giant BP and clean energy development.


    "We are now able to sell to China not just financial and business services and environmental technologies, but also a whole range of British brands that are now becoming very popular among the rising number of Chinese consumers," Brown said.


    "We are moving our partnership with China to a higher level."


    The three-day trip is Brown's first to China since he became prime minister seven months ago.


    His arrival makes him the latest in a long line of foreign visitors knocking on China's door, with leaders from Europe and North America looking to tap into China's booming economy as a way of heading off the effects of a looming recession.


    A recent report from the World Bank noted that China  - along with India – offer the best hopes for underpinning global growth as economies in United States, Japan and Europe slow as a result of the global credit crisis.


    China is seen as a major market for British
    exporters of clean energy tehnology [AFP]

    Among the business leaders accompanying Brown on his visit are David Brennan, the chief executive officer of pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, and Richard Branson, the Virgin entrepreneur.


    Brown is hoping to see British companies step up their presence in China's service sector, especially in areas such as financial services, insurance and retail.


    Underscoring that drive on Friday the London Stock Exchange opened an office in Beijing, stepping up competition with US-based markets hoping to attract listings from the growing number of Chinese companies that are expanding abroad.


    From China's perspective, officials are hoping Brown's visit will boost cooperation on clean energy technologies where Britain has expertise.


    China's booming economy is also fast making it one of the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.


    Speaking to reporters on the journey to Beijing, Michael Ellam, Brown's spokesman confirmed that China's responsibility for tackling climate change would be raised.


    But he added that Britain "recognises that they have to be allowed the opportunity for growth."


    Brown is also under pressure to raise the subject of human rights in China, as well as China's approach to the conflict in Darfur and its ties to the government of Sudan.


    In an open letter to the British prime minister earlier this week, Human Rights Watch urged him to press Beijing on the issue in the run-up to the Olympics.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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