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UK's May walks tightrope between trade and politics on trip to China

31 January, 2018, 10:35 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • Pound slips by a cent on fears over Brexit divisions

She left no doubt that she wants to strike a formal free trade agreement with China after Brexit, but said there were steps which could be taken now to remove barriers to commerce.

But difficulties with Brexit negotiations and renewed speculation over her leadership threatened to overshadow the trip, which Ms May wants to use to bang the drum for investment in the UK.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond has also made it clear that the U.K.is a "natural partner" for the Belt and Road, announcing there would be a special envoy as well as a Belt and Road Council of senior business leaders in the Britain interested in helping to realize further progress in the great Initiative. The Prime Minister Theresa May will travel to Wuhan, Beijing and Shanghai.

The visit will be Mrs May's second visit to China since becoming Prime Minister following her attendance at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou in September 2016. While China is willing to discuss human rights with other countries, the conversations must be based on equality and mutual respect, the ministry said in response to the question.

Mrs May said: "In our increasingly interconnected world, any government that is serious about the economic prosperity and security of its people must have an worldwide outlook, and must be prepared to reach out around the world and secure agreements overseas that ensure jobs and prosperity at home".

"There are huge trade opportunities in China that we want to help British businesses take advantage of", said Mrs May. The nature of the relationship between the two countries means she can still discuss "those issues" of concern, she said.

A series of business deals are expected to be signed during the trip, which May and her International Trade Secretary Liam Fox will hold up as examples of the positive future which lies ahead for the United Kingdom after Brexit.

"One of the things the prime minister will be focusing on this visit is looking at the scope to work with China, as China opens up its markets, to move towards a more ambitious trading relationship with China", Woodward told reporters.

Asked why she wouldn't formally join the Belt and Road initiative, May struck a diplomatic tone, saying the plan had the "potential to be a hugely significant investment and to have a huge, significant impact" but added a caveat: "What I would like to see is ensuring that we have transparency and global standards being adhered to - and I will be discussing that with my Chinese interlocutors".

Before her trip, the former British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, urged May to address concerns about the political situation in the semi-autonomous city, which London handed back to Beijing in 1997.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday defied critics calling for her to resign, saying she was not a quitter and that she has a long-term job to do: delivering Brexit and domestic reform. An automatic leadership challenge is triggered should the letters reach 48, or 15% of the parliamentary party, but May will be unaware of the number until the critical mass is breached.

May's future as leader of the ruling Conservative Party has been subject to heightened speculation after she gambled a year ago on a snap election, which went badly wrong and cost her party its majority in Parliament. "Yes, we need to ensure that we do speak about the achievements that we've seen". "What we are doing now is doing the job that the British people asked for a government to do".

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