David Cameron is aiming to create a “partnership for growth and reform” as he leads the largest ever British business mission of its kind to China.
Despite growing unease within the prime minister’s own Conservative party about the UK’s EU membership, he says deeper economic ties are a priority.
“I believe it’s time now also to look at a proper free trade agreement between the European Union and China,” said Cameron.
“The free trade agreements that we have pioneered and signed have been a huge success, win-win situations as you would say, and we believe there’s an extraordinary opportunity for a win-win situation between the European Union and China,” he added.
But Cameron’s push for an EU-China trade deal is likely to irritate the European Commission, which is strongly opposed to such a move on the grounds that it risks further flooding the bloc with cheap Chinese imports.
British finance minister George Osborne opened the door to further Chinese investment in Britain during a visit to Beijing last month. He announced less stringent rules for Chinese banks operating in London, in a push to make the British capital the main offshore hub for trading in China’s currency and bonds.