British PM comes to China for trade boosting visit

8th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron arrives in China Tuesday with Britain's largest-ever delegation to the Asian nation for a business-boosting visit, amid pressure to challenge Beijing on human rights.

Cameron brings with him some 50 top business leaders seeking to win lucrative deals on a trip he has described as a "vitally important trade mission" -- his first official visit to the world's second largest economy.

The trip comes amid a crackdown on activists after jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 8, and Cameron faces pressure to raise the issue with the Beijing leadership.

He is the first Western leader to visit China since the prize announcement.

Since taking power in May, the British premier has promised "closer engagement" with China and put "banging the drum for trade" at the heart of his foreign policy amid deep spending cuts at home after the financial crisis.

"Our message is simple: Britain is now open for business, has a very business-friendly government, and wants to have a much, much stronger relationship with China," he said ahead of the trip.

Chinese and British firms have already signed a raft of deals worth millions of dollars, the British embassy said on the eve of the visit, and more are due to be unveiled at a ceremony Tuesday preceded by talks with Premier Wen Jiabao.

Famed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei on Monday chided Western leaders for putting trade relationships with Beijing ahead of their commitment to human rights, and urged the British premier not to mince words during his visit.

Western leaders "must insist on human rights issues, that it is inadmissible for citizens to be imprisoned because they think differently", Ai told AFP.

"I don't know how the British prime minister will react. But in varying degrees, the American, French and German leaders betrayed the values which are most treasured by humanity."

With the trip coming before the G20 summit in Seoul, the leaders may also touch on thorny economic issues such as Western claims China is deliberately holding down its currency's value, plus global trade imbalances.

Cameron, who is being accompanied by four of his top ministers, will also hold talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao during his visit.

© 2010 AFP

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