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David Cameron and Li Keqiang press conference: June 2014

David Cameron
Good afternoon, and welcome. I’m delighted to welcome Premier Li to London for the UK-China Summit, and for his first visit since taking office. I’m pleased to be able to return the hospitality and the warm welcome that Premier Li gave to me in Beijing only last December.

It is of course not Premier Li’s first visit to Number 10 Downing Street; he visited shortly after my youngest daughter Florence was born, and he met her and very kindly gave her a toy panda. They are going to meet again I hope, and in the interim, Florence has grown, and so too has the relationship between Britain and China.

Let me touch on 3 points. First, our economic and trading relationship: this government is committed to implementing our long-term economic plan and to turning our country around. We are starting to see that plan bear fruit. And I have always said that a key part of that plan is linking this country up to the fastest growing economies on the planet. China is central to that and, in the last few years, we’ve made a huge difference and built a much stronger bilateral and trading relationship between our countries.

The figures tell the story: bilateral trade is at a record level; our exports to China up 15% in 2013 – they’ve more than doubled in the last 5 years, and at £1 billion a month they are growing faster than France’s or Germany’s. The UK is the most popular destination in Europe for Chinese investment, with more Chinese investment into the United Kingdom in the last 18 months than in the whole of the last 30 years combined. These figures prove once again that Britain is the most open economy in the EU; the most welcoming to Chinese investment, including in our nuclear industry and our infrastructure, and I’m determined to keep it that way.

The UK will continue to stand for opening up trade in the EU; for progress towards an EU-China trade deal; and for free trade within the G20 and the WTO. Today we have signed deals worth more than £14 billion, securing jobs and long term economic growth for the British and Chinese people. Ours is truly a partnership for growth, reform and innovation.

But second, our partnership goes well beyond the economic field. The UK recognises that the rise of China is one of the defining events of our century. We welcome the fact that China’s economic growth is lifting billions out of poverty and, as Premier Li noted yesterday, that, as China grows in economic power, so that brings greater responsibilities on the world stage. As fellow members of the UN Security Council, we both have responsibilities for upholding international peace and security, and the rule of law. We stand ready to work with our Chinese colleagues.

Today we have discussed some of the most pressing global issues which affect both our countries. The threat from extremism and terrorism; the deteriorating situation in Iraq; and the need for the Iraqi government to pursue inclusive policies which can unite the country. We’ve discussed developments in the Ukraine.

This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the signature of the Joint Declaration on Hong Kong, which enshrined our 2 governments’ commitment to Hong Kong’s prosperity, stability and way of life in accordance with the ‘one country, two-systems’ principle.

Finally, we’re both committed to ensuring that our growing economic and political ties also contribute to much stronger links between our peoples. We’ve been pleased to see an increase of nearly 90% of Chinese visitors to Britain since 2010. And I’m delighted that since my visit to China in December, the Foreign Secretary has led the strategic dialogue between our countries in February, and Jeremy Hunt led the people to people dialogue in April.

So this is a relationship which is gaining in strength; it is gaining in depth; gaining in understanding between our 2 nations. And Premier Li and I are committed to this relationship and to taking it to the next level.

Thank you very much.

Li Keqiang via interpreter
Ladies and gentlemen, Prime Minister Cameron, dear friends. I am very happy to meet the friends from the press. I’ve come this time as the Chinese Premier on my first official visit to the UK and attend the China-UK annual prime ministers’ meeting. I would like to thank the Prime Minister and the British government for the warm reception extended to myself and my delegation, as well as the thoughtful arrangements.

Today is a joyful day with bright sunshine. I would like to thank the friends from press for bringing us the good weather. It is also a special day. On this very day, 60 years ago, or 17th June 1954, China and the UK established the diplomatic relations at the chargé d’affaires level. It was the relationship between a new China – important relationship between new China and the Western major country. So it can be said that the UK was leading major western powers.

At the same time, icebreakers from the group of 48 opened the door of China-UK economic and trade links. The far sight of the elder generation of leaders of China and Britain as well as the extraordinary courage and the wisdom of the icebreakers should be remembered by all of us.

Now, in China, we say, ’60 years mark a cycle of calendar.’ 60 years have gone; today we’re duty-bound to map out the new routes for China-UK relations and lay a fast track for bilateral cooperation. Today, in the morning, I had a meeting with Her Majesty the Queen. And I also had, together with Prime Minister Cameron, a [inaudible] discussion. This is a very good discussion.

We also brought witness to the signing of a joint statement of the 2 governments. Both sides believe that China and the UK as permanent members of the [UN] Security Council and the major world economies share extensive common interests. China-UK cooperation is not only important for both countries but also has global significance. And given the potential for bilateral cooperation, we should and we can grow faster for this partnership for growth.

As I said to Prime Minister Cameron, imbued in this partnership for growth we are also working for inclusive development. During my current visit – it’s not a short visit – but it’s a pity and unfortunately I cannot spare time to go somewhere outside London. The point I want to say is that China’s hinterland and the Western region is far away in terms of development from the Eastern region. The development imbalance cannot be compared to the UK; we’re more unbalanced. But this imbalance also entails growth potential. So China and the UK should view each other’s development as an opportunity.

UK has advanced technology; it can be married with China’s vast markets and, by doing so, we will create huge energy. We both believe that we should increase mutual political trust, engage in equal cooperation, and accommodate each other’s core interests and major concerns to solidify the political foundation of bilateral ties.

We also believe that we should deepen our cooperation. We should not only expand our bilateral trade to US$110 billion, but also to make our cooperation of better quality, of greater content. So in the fields of reform and innovation, we are most ready to work with the UK for a partnership. We are also ready to further expand people to people exchanges. We will make success the cultural and the people to people exchange activities in the next 2 years; in the next 5 years, China will send 10,000 students to UK on government scholarship, and welcome more UK students to China. They will become the bridge of China-UK cooperation in the future.

Mr Cameron said that the British side has taken a number of steps to simplify visa formalities for Chinese applicants who wish to come to Britain so that they can come faster and in greater numbers, I believe. We would also ask our Chinese nationals – not only students but also tourists and the business people – should also respect local laws and regulations and the local customs.

We are also permanent members of the UN Security Council and, given this, we should increase our communication and collaboration in international affairs. This will not only be good for world peace, but also for regional stability. We both follow closely regional hotspots, and are ready to play a constructive role in their settlement and would like to play a better role in China-EU relations to advance the investment agreement negotiation, as well as FTA negotiations, jointly uphold free trade in the world and an open world economy as a whole.

The UK was the first country to realise industrial revolution. Well, China is the largest of the developing countries. Against backdrop of the world economy, without establishing a firm hold, both developing countries and developed countries need to upgrade their economic structures, so I think our cooperation has a good foundation and great potential. There’s much we can accomplish together in the future.

There is an English verb: one today is worth two tomorrow. But I wish there will be brighter sunshine tomorrow than today. And in China we say: time waits for no man. We should seize every minute. We should seize the opportunities, adopt an enterprising spirit, promote an inclusive development of financial ties, and contribute more to our 2 peoples and the whole world. Thank you.

So, Mr Cameron, I’d like to ask to what extent British policies in Iraq have contributed to the crisis that we’ve seen over the past few days, and how mending relations with Iran can help matters there.

David Cameron
First of all, on Iran, Britain believes in, and I believe in, step by step, building our relationship with Iran because we need to have proper dialogue with that country. We’re having dialogue over the nuclear weapons issue, and quite rightly we should be having dialogue with it on issues of regional security.

Obviously, our relationship was at a low point after the appalling things that happened with respect to our embassy, but it is right, step by step, with a clear eye, with a hard head, to rebuild that relationship. Now, we’ve been doing that anyway, irrespective of what is happening in Iraq, but I think what is happening in Iraq is certainly not a reason for not taking that step. So we will, as the Foreign Secretary set out, be rebuilding that relationship. But we should do it, as I said, with a very clear eye on the future.

No one should be in any doubt that what we see in Syria, and now in Iraq, in terms of ISIS, is the most serious threat to Britain’s security that there is today. The number of foreign fighters in that area – including those from the UK who could try to return to the UK – is a real threat to our country, and we will do absolutely everything that we can to keep our people safe. That means stopping people from going. It means arresting people who are involved in plots. It means focusing our security, our policing, our intelligence effort onto that area of the world, onto those people, and doing everything we can to keep people safe.

We can go into a long exegesis of the causes of these problems, but I think it is absolutely clear that in the world today we do face threats from extremist Islamist terrorists. We face that threat coming out of Somalia, coming out of Mali, coming out of Nigeria, coming out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and now we face it coming out of Syria and Iraq. What matters is making sure we do everything we can to keep our country safe, which is exactly what we will do, and we will work with partners in that process and it is an issue that we’ve discussed here today.

Li Keqiang via interpreter
So the madam journalist asked me a question concerning the remarks by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg yesterday. Maybe saying that, that reflected another kind of voice in the UK. Well that reminds me of my last visit to this country. It was a visit at the invitation of the Deputy Prime Minister and, when I was here, and we were having a luncheon, and he showed me a local newspaper and asked me the following question. He said that on this page there was this article expressing warm welcome to you, Mr Vice Premier, and at the same time on the same page there was another article making critical comments – serious criticisms about me.

So how do you see this? Well I was thinking, well does it show this kind of say balance or compromise attitude in the UK? Saying something good about the visiting Chinese Vice Premier and something very critical about the Deputy Prime Minister of the UK on the same page of the local newspaper. But for me, I don’t really expect there will be uniform opinion about issues in this country.

Talking about human rights, I want to say that it is prescribed in China’s constitution that human rights must be respected and protected in China. Actually to achieve advanced human rights, the Chinese people themselves had made strenuous efforts to achieve the right to subsistence and right to develop for themselves.

Well over the last 30 years or more, as you know, that China has lifted 600 million of its people out of poverty, and I also believe there are diverse dimensions to the issue of human rights, and countries which are at different stages of development with difficult historical and cultural background may see this issue of human rights from different perspectives.

Well for China and the UK, for human rights, we have the human rights dialogue mechanism. And China, while advancing its own human rights cause, is also in close communication with the UK with this respect. I believe on many issues our 2 countries can learn a lot from each other and, at the same time, we are also choosing our own paths in accordance with our own national conditions. I believe as long as our 2 countries continue to respect each other and pursue cooperation on the basis of equality, there will be growing areas where I’m sure we can continue to draw upon each other’s experience.

Question via interpreter
Mr Prime Minister, last year when you visited China you once said that the UK is prepared to be China’s strongest supporter in the West. I would like to ask you what specific measures has the UK taken to do that, and what progress has been made, and what plan does the UK have for the future?

David Cameron
Thank you. I would say that Britain is a strong and good friend of China and a great supporter of China’s rise. As members of the EU, we have been pushing very hard for the EU to start work on a free trade agreement with China. That was very much something that Britain put on the table before any other European country. We’re a big supporter of free trade. We believe that it can unlock growth, investment and jobs in China, and for people in Britain, and we think that’s been a very important push for the British to make.

I also argue that we believe that the British economy is one of the most open and welcoming anywhere in the world, and we see that as a source of strength for Britain. The fact that Chinese companies are coming into Britain and investing in banking, in insurance, in the nuclear industry, in infrastructure, we see that as a sign of British economic strength. The more that foreign companies come and invest in key parts of infrastructure, the more we can use our own resources then to invest even more alongside them.

So I think, when you look at Britain’s role in the world as pushing for openness and free trade, and when you look at Britain’s openness in terms of our economy, you can see that makes us a very important and strong partner for China as your economy develops and as our economy develops as well.

Mr Li, before you came here your envoy suggested that as a place to do business Britain actually ranked behind France and Germany. I wonder if that’s your opinion? And I also wonder how you think the desirability of the UK would be impacted either by Scotland voting to break up the UK or by Britain voting to leave the European Union.

And Mr Cameron, on that last point, have you now accepted that you’ve lost your battle to exclude Mr Juncker from being president of the Commission?

David Cameron
I’ll do the British question first.

Look there’s an important principle at stake here, which is that the accountable elected members of the European Council, the elected heads of state, the elected heads of government should be the ones who propose who runs the European Commission. It’s a very important principle. And I will go on putting forward that principal and opposing this process of having someone put on us by the European Parliament through a fairly strange set of elections. I’ll go on opposing that right up to the end. There is absolutely no question of changing my view about that.

Now in many ways, the question is not for me. I’ve made clear my view. I think Europe needs reform, but I don’t think it needs an effective change in the way Europe works to suddenly decide the European Commission is elected through this process of the European Parliament. So my view is very clear. I think it is for others to make their view clear; if you are for reform, then you need to stand up and fight for reform. If you are against transferring power from the European Council to the European Parliament, if you’re against that, you have to stand up and say so. So I’m very clear about where I stand. Others will have to make their own decisions, and we’ll see what happens in a week or so’s time. But I’m very clear: it would be completely wrong, because this is an issue of principle. To suddenly turn round and say, well it’s all right for this election to lead to a particular person to lead the European Commission, I just think that’s wrong. And I will go on thinking it is wrong, right up until the end.

Li Keqiang via interpreter
Indeed yesterday when I just arrived in the UK, I heard there was this local report about a press conference given by the Chinese Ambassador to the UK. And actually, I talked about this with our Chinese Ambassador here, and he said to me that, when he first came to the UK as Chinese Ambassador, he often heard people say the UK, France and Germany, the 3 major white European countries in that sequence. And 3 years later, in the UK, he now hears people talk about these countries in a sequence of Germany, France and the UK.

Well, I asked about him how he looked at this matter, and he said to me that as Chinese Ambassador to this country, he certainly hopes that China relationship with the UK will be at the forefront of Chinese relationships with all the European countries. Well, I said to him, I fully appreciate what he said, because I recall my personal experience when I served as a governor of a local Chinese province. I would also make a lot of comparisons of the province I governed with other Chinese-governed provinces, hoping that the province that I was in charge of would certainly develop faster than, say, other provinces in China. So it’s really natural for one to understand that kind of sentiment.

Well, in China we have this old saying that you sing a local song, wherever you are in a particular place, you need to speak the local language and sing the local song in that way. So, since now I’m in the UK, I would like to say that I also share the wish of the Ambassador to the UK. I hope that China and UK relationship will also move faster, and stay at the forefront of China’s relationships with the European countries.

As for the second part of your question, let me just answer in principle that you know China all along supports the EU integration process. I state here and also say the same thing on other occasions, in other places. We welcome a strong and prosperous European Union. We believe that is conducive to world multipolarity. We wouldn’t say different things on other occasions about this.

While at the same time, I also want to say that we welcome a strong, prosperous and united United Kingdom. I believe the United Kingdom can stay at the forefront in leading the world’s growth and development, and also continue to play an important and even bigger role for regional stability and global peace. And should you want to dig any deeper into that question, I don’t know maybe if the Prime Minister himself would also like to add a few words.

Question via interpreter
Premier Li, I know you have come to the UK this time for the annual meeting between the 2 prime ministers of the 2 countries, and indeed this is the first time for the Chinese new leadership to pay an official visit to the UK. I would like to ask you, what is the most important message you want to convey through this visit? And what expectations does China have for the further growth of China–UK ties?

The second question for Prime Minister Cameron: we know that the UK is a strong supporter of free trade, and opposes trade protectionism. I would like to ask what positive steps will the UK take in driving forward the negotiation of this investment treaty between China and the EU, and feasibility study of FTA between China and the EU?

Li Keqiang via interpreter
About the significance and outcomes of this visit, I believe both the Prime Minister and I already talked about this in our respective opening remarks. Let me stress the following points. I believe talking about why this is an important visit, well I believe we need to take a look at the basic facts like both China and the UK are the permanent members of the UN Security Council. We are both major economies in the world. The UK is the first country to achieve industrialisation, and China is the world’s largest developing country. I believe there is extensive common interests between our 2 countries, and our cooperation serves the interests of both, and has global ramifications.

And China is ready to work with the UK to foster a partnership for growth and inclusive development to ensure that this relationship will grow faster and in a healthier way. So, during the visit, we have both together charted the future course for this relationship and laid a fast-track voice, stronger growth.

We have also issued a joint statement between the 2 governments, talking about the outcomes of the visit. Let me just cite 2 examples. Just now, during the luncheon that the Prime Minister kindly hosted in my honour, there was this room but it was fully packed, it was seated to its full. There were political leaders from both sides, but also the strong business representatives. I believe that shows how full this relationship is. And secondly, the Prime Minister and I jointly witnessed the signing of a dozen agreements between the 2 countries. In the interests of time, we didn’t attend the signing ceremony for the rest of these agreements.

There are a rich [inaudible] of this visit, and I believe this visit is of mutual benefit. It’s not just about cooperation agreements worth, say, several dozen billion dollars. It involves a lot of aspects like Chinese buying British goods, and Chinese companies making investments in nuclear power sector in the UK etc. I believe these spell mutually beneficial opportunities, and win-win scenario for both countries.

Let me add one thing. That is China and the UK have jointly contributed – agreed to contribute £200 million to establish a joint research and innovation partnership fund. And the first project – collaborative project – using this fund is in the – about the telescope cooperation between the 2 sides. I believe that shows the strong ambition of 2 sides.

David Cameron
Thank you. You ask about what we can do to drive forward action on the free trade agreement and the investment agreement: well obviously to encourage the European Commission to start the work, to persuade the doubters – there are those in the European Union less enthusiastic about free trade than we are, but I think the evidence from the previous free trade agreements, including the one with [Republic of] Korea, show the real benefits of this cooperation. But also we need to make sure we tackle barriers – not just tariff barriers – but barriers to the proper flow of goods, services and information between our 2 countries. So we have to address things like international intellectual property rights at the same time as dealing with tariff barriers. I think if we do all those things, then there’s no reason why we can’t make progress on these very important agendas.

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