May wins promise from China to open up markets to UK products


Theresa May has won an assurance from China's premier that Beijing will further open up its markets to the UK - including to agricultural products and financial services.

Following talks in the Chinese capital with Li Keqiang, the Prime Minister said they had agreed to intensify the so-called "golden era" in their bilateral relationship.

She told a joint news conference that with UK-China trade currently worth a record £59 billion a year, she expected deals worth a further £9 billion to be signed during the course of her three-day visit.

Mr Li said that their talks had delivered "substantive results" and that their bilateral relationship would not be affected by Britain's impending withdrawal from the EU.

"We will work to maintain the continued growth in our bilateral relations to take forward our relationship in the golden era," he said.

"The two-way opening up between China and the UK will go even further and China will open even wider to the UK.

"In line with our agreement China will expand openness to UK products including agricultural products. China will import UK products that are needed in the Chinese market."

Theresa May visit to China
Theresa May inspects a ceremonial guard at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing with Chinese premier Li Keqiang (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He said that their talks had covered a wide range of issues including human rights, the protection of intellectual property rights and overcapacity in the international steel market.

The two leaders said that they had also agreed to co-operate more closely on the United Nations Security Council to uphold world peace and the international rules-based order - including in relation to North Korea.

"We agree that its pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile programmes is illegal, reckless and poses an unacceptable threat to international security," Mrs May said.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang: "Our bilateral relationship will not change with the changes of EU/UK relations"

-- Andrew Woodcock (@AndyWoodcock) January 31, 2018

"We have agreed that the full and effective implementation of UN Security Council sanctions is vital to persuade the North Korean regime to change course and abandon its illegal activity."

The Prime Minister said they had agreed to carry out a joint trade and investment review to identify priorities for promoting growth in goods, services and investment.

It included agreement by the Chinese to make progress over the course of the next six months on lifting the BSE ban on British beef exports as well as allowing a broader range of UK dairy products.

Theresa May visit to China
Theresa May and her husband Philip arrive in Beijing (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

She said that they had also agreed to work to ensure that when companies innovate and develop new products, they could be confident their intellectual property and rights will be fully protected, "including against cyber threats".

"We will work together to encourage free and fair trade, ensure a transparent rules-based multilateral trading system and build an open global economy that works for all," she said.

Mrs May said the UK was a "natural partner" for President Xi Jinping's flagship Belt and Road Initiative to establish overland transport links between China and Europe, and they would be discussing how best they could co-operate on the project while maintaining international standards.

Theresa May visit to China
Theresa May looks out over the Yangtze River in the Chinese city of Wuhan (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Earlier, the Prime Minister began her trip with a visit to Wuhan University - one of the country's most prestigious higher education institutions - to meet students at a UK-China Spirit of Youth festival.

The PM was greeted by famous Chinese actress Jiang Shu-Ying, who studied at the University of East Anglia and is an ambassador for the scheme, as well as the Communist Party secretary of Hubei province, Jiang Chaoliang.

More than 200 Chinese students of English and young Britons studying in Wuhan cheered and took videos on their mobile phones as the PM took to the stage to announce a series of new educational links between the countries.