UK's May promises frank discussions with China amid dash for trade

Pound slips by a cent on fears over Brexit divisions

Pound slips by a cent on fears over Brexit divisions

May wants to burnish the "golden era" between the countries announced by Xi during a state visit to Britain in 2015.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, British Prime Minister Theresa May, second from left, receives bouquet of flowers upon arrival in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018.

The visit comes amid doubts at home over the potential for deals with countries like China to replace economic growth lost due to Brexit, with leaked Government papers suggesting that the hit to GDP from European Union withdrawal will only be partially offset by any new trade elsewhere in the world.

During the three-day trip, it is expected Mrs May will focus on extending existing commercial partnerships rather than scoping out new post-Brexit deals.

However, Mrs May said the relationship allowed for "frank discussions on all issues".

China was expected to play a "huge role" in the economic development of the world, said the PM, adding: "I want that future to work for Britain, which is why, during my visit, I'll be deepening co-operation with China on key global and economic issues that are critical to our businesses, to our people, and to what the United Kingdom stands for".

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"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.

In terms of trade, British exports to China have grown by 60 percent since 2010, and, in 2016, saw a year-on-year increase of 30 percent, according to statistics provided by the Ambassador.

Mr May has only ever accompanied his wife to a summit of the G20 in Germany, but Downing Street confirmed he had accepted an invitation to travel to China and have his own schedule there. During her stay in the Chinese capital, she will co-host the first annual bilateral prime ministerial meeting.

Issues likely to be discussed include North Korea and climate change.

Britain's last governor in Hong Kong before it was handed back to the Chinese, Chris Patten, wrote to May on Monday urging her to raise concerns over the "increasing threats to the basic freedoms, human rights and autonomy" in the territory.

They said they hoped the PM would "be able to provide the people of Hong Kong with some assurance that our developing relationship with China, vital though it is, will not come at the cost of our obligations to them". 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.

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