PRIME Minister David Cameron’s efforts to double trade with China by 2015 received a boost yesterday, as aero-engine maker Rolls-Royce won a $1.2bn (£747.4m) order from China Eastern Airlines.
Cameron, making his first visit to the Asian powerhouse since taking office in May, has targeted annual trade of more than $100bn with the world’s second-largest economy within five years.
The Prime Minister told reporters he would raise human rights issues with Beijing but it wasn’t Britain’s role to lecture or heckle China, a one-party communist state. Some rights groups have accused London of soft-pedalling on sensitive political issues to avoid harming its trade prospects.
The Rolls-Royce order, signed in Cameron’s presence, is for Trent 700 engines to power 16 Airbus A330 aircraft and is by far the biggest such deal sealed during a trip by the largest British delegation ever to visit China.
Foreign secretary William Hague told MPs back in the UK that agreements to be signed during Cameron’s trip might total around £1.7bn.
Britain is competing with other Western nations to sell more to China and its vast population.
China and France clinched deals valued at around $20bn last week during an overseas trip by President Hu Jintao, while Germany remains by far Beijing’s biggest European trade partner.
Cameron yesterday called for progress on the Doha round of world trade talks, long paralysed by disputes over farm trade centred on the United States, China and India. His 36-hour visit to China comes ahead of a G20 summit in South Korea starting tomorrow.
“Next year has to see the deal done, and that means action now,” he wrote in a newspaper column.