UK trade offensive yields Rolls-Royce deal


BEIJING: British Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to double trade with China by 2015 received a boost on Tuesday when engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce won a $1.2-billion order from China Eastern Airlines.
Cameron, making his first visit to China since taking office in May, has aimed for annual trade of more than $100 billion with the world’s second-largest economy within five years.
The prime minister told British reporters he would bring up human rights issues with China but that it wasn’t Britain’s role to lecture or hector China, run by one party. Some rights groups have accused Britain of soft-pedalling on sensitive political issues to avoid harming its trade prospects.
The Rolls-Royce order, signed in the presence of Cameron, is for Trent 700 engines to power 16 Airbus A330 aircraft and is by far the largest such deal sealed during a trip by the largest British delegation ever to visit China.
Britain is competing with other Western nations in seeking to sell more to China and its vast population. China and France clinched deals valued at around $20 billion last week during an overseas trip by President Hu Jintao. British officials say UK-based companies would secure $5 billion worth of business as part of a deal signed by China with Airbus in France last week.
Global trade deal: Writing in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Cameron also called for progress during the Doha round of world trade talks. Cameron’s 36-hour visit to China comes ahead of a G20 summit in South Korea later this week.
“Next year has to see the deal done, and that means action now,” Cameron wrote of the stalled trade talks. Britain sees a trade deal as a way of kick-starting growth when budgets are tight and monetary policy options limited.
Cameron met Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday in the Great Hall of the People and is scheduled to have talks with President Hu on Wednesday before travelling on to the G20 summit.
China will be hoping Britain does not bring up in public thorny questions such as imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and other dissidents like Gao Zhisheng, as well as avoids too much talk of the situation in Tibet.
“We want a stronger economic and business relationship with China, we are the fifth-largest economy in the world but we have only 2 percent of China’s imports,” Cameron said in a round of interviews with British broadcasters.
“But our dialogue is mature enough that we cover all of these areas, including human rights,” he added.
Cameron is accompanied by four senior ministers and more than 40 business leaders seeking deals to fill order books while the government cuts spending at home.
A number of relatively small deals had already been announced, including measures to boost sales of Scotch whisky and allow the import of breeding pigs into China.