Britain's Cameron to visit China in December

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron arrives in Downing Street in central London, Nov 6, 2013. British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday that he would visit China in early December to meet the new leadership in Beijing and forge business
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron arrives in Downing Street in central London, Nov 6, 2013. British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday that he would visit China in early December to meet the new leadership in Beijing and forge business links. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday that he would visit China in early December to meet the new leadership in Beijing and forge business links.

He said he would take a delegation of ministers and business leaders on the trip, which will be his first to the Asian powerhouse since President Xi Jinping took office in March.

The trip is regarded as so crucial that the annual Autumn Statement budget update by finance minister George Osborne is being postponed by one day to Dec 5.

The announcement comes a month after Mr Cameron's coalition government signed a 16-billion-pound (S$31.9 billion) deal involving Chinese nuclear firms CGN and CNNC to build Britain's first nuclear plant in a generation, along with French energy giant EDF.

Mr Cameron last visited China in November 2010.

"I can announce this evening that in early December I will be leading another delegation to China," Mr Cameron said in a speech at the Lord Mayor of London's banquet in the capital.

"As China's new leadership sets its direction for the next ten years, as their country's star continues to rise in the world, I will take senior British ministers, as well as business leaders from every sector large and small, to forge a relationship that will benefit both our countries and bring real rewards for our peoples," he said.

Mr Cameron said his China visit next month was aimed at "opening the way for British companies to benefit from China's vast and varied markets and preparing the way for a new level of Chinese investment into the UK."

"This is a relationship that is for the long term, that matters for Britain and China, and which I look forward to continuing to strengthen in the months and years to come."

Chancellor of the Exchequer Osborne visited China in October, coming away with a range of investment deals.

A statement issued by Mr Osborne's office confirmed that his Autumn Statement would be put back a day due to the prime minister's China visit.

Mr Cameron, whose government is trying to attract foreign trade in an effort to cut a record deficit, is set to visit India and the Gulf later this week on trade trips.

The Conservative leader has often spoken of the need for Britain to compete in the "global race" against rising economic powers.

He said Britain would next year introduce an electronic visa waiver system for short-term visitors from Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait to make it easier to do business in Britain.