Chinese President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister Theresa May have agreed to hold a joint trade and investment review. This would be the first step towards an ambitious future trade agreement after Brexit, May’s office said on Thursday. “The PM said that, once Britain leaves the EU, we will be free to strike our own trade deals,” according to the statement. Xi and May agreed in Beijing to hold more talks on China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. Xi said China’s markets would be further opened to the UK, including in sectors such as beef, dairy and other agricultural goods, Reuters reported.
British Prime Minister Theresa May left China on Friday with deals worth more than 9.3 billion pounds ($13.26 billion), at the end of a three-trade trade mission where President Xi Jinping pledged to upgrade their “golden era” in relations.
Britain is trying to reinvent the chief global trading nation after a 2016 referendum decision to leave the European Union.China, the world’s second-largest economy, is on the list of countries that Britain wants to sign a FTA soon.
Speaking at a business summit in China’s commercial capital Shanghai, May said Britain was keen to help bring Xi’s vision for globalisation and a more open Chinese economy to life.“Meanwhile, the UK is preparing to leave the European Union. We’re seizing the opportunity to become an ever-more outward-looking Global Britain, deepening our trade relations with nations around the world – including China,” she said.
Chinese investment is helping Britain develop infrastructure and create jobs, with some 50,000 British businesses importing goods from China and more than 10,000 sell their goods to China, she added.
“We’ve agreed on moves to bring more of the UK’s internationally renowned food and drink to China, to open up the market to some of Britain’s world-class financial services providers,” May said.
The 9.3 billion pounds in deals will create over 2,500 jobs across the United Kingdom, the British government said.
Britain’s financial services firms alone secured deals worth more than 1 billion pounds and market access, that would lead to 890 jobs, it said, without giving details.
China sees Britain as an important ally in its call for more open global markets, despite widespread concerns in the foreign business community about the difficulty of operating in China, and both countries refer to a “golden era” in relations.
Xi told May the two countries should “add new meaning into the bilateral ties so as to forge an enhanced version of the ‘Golden Era’,” according to state-run media.
China appreciative of Britain’s enthusiasm for the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Xi’s Belt and Road initiative to build a new Silk Road.
On Friday, edition of the People’s Daily said Britain had shown “intelligence and pragmatism” in supporting Belt and Road.
“It is a model for other Western nations,” it said.
But Brexit has unnerved Beijing, concerned about losing an important voice supporting free trade in the European Union and what it may mean for market access to Europe for Chinese firms which have invested in Britain.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told May on Wednesday that China’s relations with Britain will remain unchanged through Brexit.