China, UK sign mega nuke power deal

(From far left) Britain's Prince Philip, China's First Lady Peng Liyuan, Queen Elizabeth II and Chinese President Xi Jinping arriving for a state banquet at Buckingham Palace in London on Tuesday.
(From far left) Britain's Prince Philip, China's First Lady Peng Liyuan, Queen Elizabeth II and Chinese President Xi Jinping arriving for a state banquet at Buckingham Palace in London on Tuesday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Multibillion-dollar financing pact inked before Xi and Cameron

LONDON • China's President Xi Jinping committed to a multibillion- dollar deal to finance nuclear power stations in Britain, crowning a visit that Prime Minister David Cameron hopes will unleash a wave of investment from the world's second largest economy.

After a day of pomp alongside Queen Elizabeth II, Mr Xi met Mr Cameron yesterday in his Downing Street residence. They also witnessed the signing of the mega deal.

Speaking at a joint news conference, Mr Cameron hailed the deal as a sign that both countries wanted to take their ties to a "new level".

Standing next to Mr Xi, Mr Cameron also said he wanted to make Britain the "partner of choice" for China. The two sides also discussed the excess global supply of steel and reached a new deal on tackling cyber espionage, he added.

In the first major Chinese investment in a Western nuclear facility, China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) will take a one-third stake in the planned £18 billion (S$38.7 billion) Hinkley Point nuclear plant owned by France's EDF.

In the first major Chinese investment in a Western nuclear facility, China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) will take a one-third stake in the planned £18 billion (S$38.7 billion) Hinkley Point nuclear plant owned by France's EDF.

State-owned CGN will also take a two-thirds stake in the Bradwell nuclear plant east of London, where it plans to build a Chinese-designed reactor, and a one-fifth stake in a project for Areva-designed reactors at the Sizewell plant.

"China and the UK are increasingly interdependent and are becoming a community of shared interests," Mr Xi said in a speech to both Houses of Parliament on Tuesday.

Escorted by Prince William, Mr Xi inspected a new battery-powered black taxi to be produced by London Taxi Company, which is owned by China's Geely.

Mr Cameron is pitching Britain as the pre-eminent Western gateway for investment from China, though the warmth of the reception for the Chinese leader has raised some eyebrows with allies and drawn criticism that London is ignoring China's human rights record.

Protests on the street against Mr Xi have been small so far, despite activists accusing Mr Cameron of courting Chinese money while brushing aside criticism of a crackdown in civil liberties since Mr Xi came to power in 2012.

British officials and business leaders say the rise of China is impossible to ignore: China's economy is four times the size of Britain's.

"China is investing more in Britain now than other European countries," Mr Cameron told China Central Television.

China yesterday nearly doubled a bilateral currency swap agreement with Britain to 350 billion yuan (S$76.7 billion), part of efforts to spur more use of the yuan abroad.

Britain is also looking to encourage high-spending Chinese tourists to visit the country by introducing a two-year multiple-entry visa, the government said yesterday.

The change to visa rules will look to cash in on the expanding wealth of China's middle class by easing the bureaucracy and costs associated with visiting Britain on holiday.

"The Chinese population like coming here for our culture, our heritage, our retail," said a spokesman for the Prime Minister.

The scheme is due to be launched in January and could be extended to introduce a 10-year multiple-entry visa.

Chinese visitors are normally issued with a six-month tourist visa at a cost of £85. The new scheme will, for the same price, issue a two-year tourist visa that allows the holder to leave and return without the need for fresh paperwork.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2015, with the headline 'China, UK sign mega nuke power deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe