China and the UK signed trade deals worth more than $23 billion during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s first official visit to Britain, reports said Wednesday.
Li's three-day visit to the UK, which began Monday, denotes a softening of relations between the two countries, which had taken a turn for the worse after British Prime Minister David Cameron met the Tibetan monk Dalai Lama last year. However, the two countries began mending ties during Cameron's visit in December, when China agreed to invest more than $10 billion in the British economy. According to previous estimates, China and the UK were reportedly expected to sign deals worth more than $30 billion during Li's visit.
"China is ready to work with the UK to foster a partnership for growth and inclusive development to ensure that this relationship will grow faster and in a healthier way," Li said, according to ABC.
Among the noteworthy deals are London-based oil company BP's decision to sign a $20 billion, 20-year supply-chain agreement with state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation, or CNOOC, China's largest offshore oil & gas producer, to supply liquefied natural gas.
"It is a 20-year supply agreement on LNG. It is a fair price for them and a fair price for us. It is a good bridge between the UK and China in terms of trade," Bob Dudley, BP’s CEO said in a conference in Moscow, according to Reuters. Shell, an Anglo-Dutch petrochemicals company based in Netherlands, also signed a deal with CNOOC.
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Cameron urged both nations to work more closely on economic as well as cultural partnerships.
“The UK recognises that the rise of China is one of the defining events of our century,” Cameron said, according to ABC, adding: “We welcome the fact that China's economic growth is lifting billions out of poverty. And as Premier Li notes yesterday, that as China grows in economic power, so that brings greater responsibilities on the world stage.”
Trade between China and UK, which is the former's third-largest trading partner in Europe, was estimated at $70 billion last year.
"It will further consolidate and promote London's status as an international financial hub and will help the gradual internationalization of the RMB to promote trade and investment liberalisation and facilitation," Li reportedly said, according to ABC.