Dec 02 - Britain has taken its biggest ever business delegation to China and hopes to remove trade barriers with the Asian economic giant. But as China's growth slows, Joanna Partridge asks if the UK has arrived at the party too late.
The largest ever British trade mission. Prime Minister David Cameron made it clear he intends to increase business with China. He's taken around 100 UK entrepreneurs with him for a three-day visit. Cameron says he wants Britain to play a role in China's expansion, as it looks to open up its markets. SOUNDBITE: British Prime Minister, David Cameron, saying (English): "Some, in Europe and elsewhere, see the world changing and want to shut China off behind a bamboo curtain of trade barriers. Britain wants to tear those trade barriers down. I believe, as I said to Premier Li just now, the way forward for Britain and China is more openness and dialogue, delivering more benefits for people here and back at home." Chinese Premier Li said both sides have agreed to push liberalisation of trade and investment. SOUNDBITE: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, saying (Mandarin): "The two countries have agreed that their companies should break through and make progress in areas such as high speed rail and nuclear power. China does not only want to participate in, but also wants to buy shares in and even control Britain's nuclear power construction projects." The trade mission should have taken place in April - but was postponed as relations cooled after Cameron's meeting with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader in exile. That rift seems to be over, but campaigners have accused Cameron of putting trade before human rights. There's also concern Cameron has come to the party too late. But Richard Hunter from Hargreaves Lansdown sees plenty of opportunities despite a slowing economy. SOUNDBITE: Richard Hunter, Head of Equities, Hargreaves Lansdown, saying (English): "This is potentially one of the largest consumer stories that's going to happen over the next 5-10 years and the current projections are that within 25 years or so, China's likely to be the world's largest economy, so whilst he's not necessarily getting on in the ground floor, China's still got a long way to run." Cameron's also pushing for an EU-China trade deal - despite promising UK voters a referendum on their own membership of the bloc. That may irritate the European Commission - it's believed to oppose the move, fearing it could see cheap Chinese imports flood in.