UK Politics

David Cameron defends China business deals

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Media captionCameron and President Xi on steel and human rights

David Cameron has defended the UK's business links with China as he said deals worth £40bn had been struck during President Xi Jinping's visit.

Mr Cameron hailed a deal giving China a 30% stake in a new nuclear plant.

The PM said the two countries could maintain a "strong relationship" while having "necessary and frank discussions" about issues like the steel industry and human rights.

President Xi said his country "attaches huge importance" to human rights.

"We combine the universal value of human rights with Chinese reality and we have found a path of human rights development suited to China's national conditions," he said, in response to a question from BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg.

"With regard to the protection of human rights, looking around the world we note there is always room for improvement."


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At a UK-China business summit as part of the Chinese president's state visit, Mr Cameron and President Xi witnessed the signing of a number of investment agreements, including a deal between EDF and China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) for a nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, Somerset.

The mainly state-owned EDF said the final cost would be £18bn. State-owned CGN will pay £6bn for one third of it.

'Strong partnership'

President Xi's state visit comes as thousands of job losses are announced in the UK steel industry.

Tata Steel has announced the latest in a series of cuts, with 1,200 jobs going at its plants in Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire.

China has been accused of dumping steel in the UK, meaning selling it at uneconomic prices, which has been partly blamed for collapsing prices.

Speaking at a joint press conference with the Chinese president, Mr Cameron said the issue of the global oversupply of steel had been discussed, and added that the two nations could discuss the issue as well as human rights concerns while maintaining a business relationship.

Action would be taken in Britain to help the steel industry on energy costs, procurement and tax, Mr Cameron said.

He added: "So I totally reject the idea you either have a conversation about human rights and steel, or you have a strong relationship with China. I want both and we are delivering both and it's when you have that strong relationship, with a strong partnership we have, you are able to discuss all of these issues."

Downing Street confirmed that Mr Cameron had raised human rights issues with Mr Xi but would not go into the specific concerns he had expressed.

Mr Cameron's spokeswoman said: "The prime minister raised the issue of human rights, the importance of countries working together to address issues, to talk about the importance of what this means as countries develop and move forwards."


China state visit: At a glance

See pictures from day one of the state visit

See pictures from day two of the state visit

Image copyright Reuters

Wednesday

  • Imperial College London visit
  • Meeting with David Cameron at Downing Street

Thursday

  • Visit global satellite communication services company
  • Dinner at Chequers

Friday

  • University of Manchester visit
  • Event at Manchester Airport before departure

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