British PM, in China, urges G20 cooperation, more freedoms

10th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron Wednesday urged China to work closely with the G20 and introduce greater political freedoms on the final day of a trade mission shadowed by human rights issues.

Cameron said in a speech at Peking University that China's cooperation with the Group of 20 would "go a long way towards helping the global economy lock in the stability it needs for strong and sustainable growth".

His call came on the eve of a meeting of the G20 advanced and emerging economies in Seoul which is likely to be dominated by debate over trade imbalances between China and the United States, plus a looming currency war.

The British premier also urged "greater political opening" in China as its economy surges, saying Britain's "rule of law" and press freedoms "make our government better and our country stronger."

Cameron is the first Western leader to visit China since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded last month to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo and has faced pressure during the two-day trip to take a firm stand on human rights.

"If China is prepared to pursue further opening of its markets and to work with Britain and the other G20 countries to rebalance the world economy and take steps over time towards internationalising its currency, that will go a long way towards helping the global economy lock in the stability it needs for strong and sustainable growth," Cameron said.

"And just as importantly, it will go a long way in securing confidence in the global community that China as an economic power is a force for good."

He also called on China to play a greater role in world affairs, notably on climate change.

"China has attempted to avoid entanglement in global affairs in the past. But China's size and global reach means that this is no longer a realistic choice," Cameron said.

On rights, Cameron had been expected to raise the case of Liu with leaders during the visit.

He has said ties between the two countries are strong enough to support "constructive dialogue of give and take in a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect."

Beijing has denounced the Oslo-based Nobel committee's decision to honour Liu -- cheered in the West -- as tantamount to "encouraging crime".

Liu, 54, was jailed in December for 11 years on subversion charges after co-authoring Charter 08, a bold petition calling for democratic reform in one-party China that has been widely circulated online and signed by thousands.

Countries including Britain and the United States have said they will not heed a Chinese call for Western diplomats to steer clear of the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in December.

Outspoken artist Ai Weiwei -- whose work is on show at London's Tate Modern gallery and who was briefly placed under house arrest last week -- said Western leaders on trade trips to China "must insist on human rights issues".

The British premier, who said he hoped his visit would result in billions of dollars in trade deals, met Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday and later visited the Great Wall. He met Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday.

Officials have not yet revealed a total figure for the amount of deals struck.

But the biggest announced so far was a 1.2-billion-dollar agreement between Rolls-Royce and China Eastern Airlines Corp under which the British group will provide jet engines to power 16 Airbus A330 aircraft.

Cameron's longer-term target is to double the level of trade in goods and services between Britain and China by 2015 from last year's 51.8 billion dollars.

His government is battling to reduce a record deficit having just imposed the steepest public sector spending cuts for decades.

© 2010 AFP

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