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Vice-Premier Li's UK visit hailed a success

Updated: 2011-01-12 07:41

By Zhang Haizhou and Zhang Chunyan (China Daily)

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Beijing and London are regarded as complementary partners for growth

LONDON - As the first high-level exchange after British Prime Minister David Cameron's Beijing visit in November, Vice-Premier Li Keqiang's UK trip has been applauded here in terms of economic and trade ties.

The two countries signed 15 deals worth more than $4 billion, covering a wide range of fields such as low carbon emissions, wildlife protection, oil and gas exploration and finance. China also agreed to loan two pandas, Tian Tian "Sweetie" and Yangguang "Sunshine", to the Edinburgh Zoo.

Li is expected to wrap up his four-day visit to Britain on Wednesday, following his visit to Spain and Germany. Li signed packages worth $7.5 billion and $8.7 billion with Spain and Germany, respectively.

At a time when the UK economy is still in a tough period, local analysts, business leaders and politicians say deals with China and Li's visit are very important.

They also note the two economies are getting increasingly complementary to each other.

"China and Britain have got a lot in common. We both have (an) interest in global recovery, increasing world trade and being partners for growth, so the Chinese people and the British people can both benefit from global economy," Xinhua quoted British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in an interview.

Osborne called the two economies "quite complementary", as Britain is the world's second-largest services exporter, and China is the largest exporter of manufactured goods.

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"There are lots of areas (where) we can enhance cooperation," he said. "We can work together to bring the benefits of a great global trade to our two countries."

Kerry Brown, a senior fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, said: "Chinese overseas investment is important and growing, but still relatively small. So it would be the UK government's hope that this (Li's visit) is the beginning of even larger job creation investments here."

He said it is welcome in Europe that Li's delegation "has been signing deals" when there's a trade deficit running in China's favor.

"Li Keqiang has a lead role in China's economic development, and so his visit to Europe gives a big chance to do something concrete about the imbalances."

UK economic growth slowed in the fourth quarter of 2010, "raising concerns about a sustainable recovery", the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has recently said.

It estimates the economy expanded by 0.4-0.5 percent in October-December, a slowdown on the latest official growth figure of 0.7 percent for July-September.

It is the first time that the jobless measure has risen for six months. The surprise increase was driven by public sector job losses, and pushed the unemployment rate up to 7.9 percent.

But this week's deals between China and UK "will safeguard 700 jobs in the UK and are estimated to have the potential to create many more", said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg after attending Monday's signing ceremony with Li.

"I see the UK and China as partners for growth. Our economies are becoming increasingly complementary, with UK companies ideally placed to contribute to China's future economic development," Clegg has said.

After signing these deals, Li was received by Cameron at No 10 Downing Street.

Li's walking up to Downing Street "may not seem" remarkable as "scores of foreign visitors" come each year, the BBC said. "But China calling really matters. Britain desperately needs China to spend more here and help an export-led recovery."

The Guardian said the business deals were struck with agreements of Chinese funding to "secure the future of Scotland's biggest mainland oil refinery", referring to the deal between PetroChina and Ineos, the world's fourth-largest chemicals producer and operator of the Grangemouth oil refinery.

Jim O'Neill, head of Global Economic Research for Goldman Sachs, said the "growth of China is most important thing this decade for all including UK".

Beijing would also hope the UK expands its exports from traditional goods, like Burberry handbags and other daily necessities, to more high-tech and clean energy projects.

Li has actually made his appeals during this European trip to the EU to remove export restrictions, especially in high-tech, to China.

Alex Mackinnon, an international strategy consultant and co-author of China Calling: A Foot in the Global Door and China Counting: How the West Was Lost, suggests European countries and China set up more joint ventures in high-tech projects in the EU.

He said it would be a win-win solution for each side as China would get high-tech from the EU, while the latter would not need to worry about problems like quality control and the protection of intellectual property rights.

Mackinnon also said the UK and China could form "a balance" in their cooperation to "resolve an uncertain future".

"The balance must combine Western problem designs with Chinese expertise in making the solutions work - we are all in the same bed but can no longer afford different dreams," he said.

Tian Dewen, an expert on UK studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "The vice-premier's visit to Europe in the new year has left a positive impression."

Tian said the trip shows China sees Europe as a very important partner that also helped build the nation's post-financial crisis image overseas.

"Due to its own situation, Europe cannot adopt the expansionary monetary policy, which made it rely more on exotic market and investment," said Cui Hongjian, director of the European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies.

During his trip, Li called on the EU to relax the restrictions of high-tech exports to China, as well as the lifting of the arms embargo and the recognition of China's full market economy status.

Ai Yang, Yu Yang and Yang Jing in Beijing contributed to this story.


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