UK's Cameron emphasises business in China visit

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (front, left) and British Prime Minister David Cameron (front, second left) look at an item on display as they visit the National Museum of China during Mr Cameron's trip in Beijing Dec 2, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (front, left) and British Prime Minister David Cameron (front, second left) look at an item on display as they visit the National Museum of China during Mr Cameron's trip in Beijing Dec 2, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - British Prime Minister David Cameron stressed his country is open to Chinese investment on Monday on his first visit to China since meeting the Dalai Lama, keeping human rights to the sidelines.

Cameron, whose meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader in 2012 was condemned by Beijing and led to a diplomatic deep-freeze between the two nations, emphasised business ties as he began what embassy officials called the "the largest British trade mission ever to go to China".

Cameron also vowed to push for a free-trade agreement between China and the EU.

"Some in Europe and elsewhere see the world changing and want to shut China off behind a bamboo curtain of trade barriers. Britain wants to tear those barriers down," he told reporters.

"No country in Europe is more open to Chinese investment than the United Kingdom," he said.

"I will champion an EU-China trade deal with as much determination as I am championing an EU-US trade deal."

The two oversaw the signing of 10 agreements, including deals on space exploration, media exchanges and patent protection.

Standing beside Cameron, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said there had been a "breakthrough" agreement on high-speed rail development between the two countries, as well as Chinese investment in civil nuclear power, but did not give details.

Britain in October signed a landmark deal with a consortium including two Chinese state-owned nuclear firms to build Britain's first nuclear plant in a generation.

The deal met with criticism on financial and security grounds at a time when China is engaged in a war of words with the US over state-sponsored cyber-hacking.

Other controversies include foreign companies being targeted by Chinese authorities for alleged price fixing and other violations.

Li compared Sino-British relations to a high-speed train which can "insofar as it's safe, constantly increase its speed".