Watch the joint press conference.
Good afternoon and welcome. It’s an honour to welcome President Xi to Downing Street. This state visit, in which the President of China is spending almost a week here in Britain, marks a key moment in the relationship between our 2 countries. It’s founded on a basic belief, which President Xi and I share, that a strong relationship is in the interests of both Britain and China. We discussed this when we first met in Beijing nearly 8 years ago, and this week’s visit and the many concrete agreements being reached as part of it are clear signs of how far the relationship between our countries has progressed in the intervening period.
A strong relationship is in both our countries’ interest, not just because it brings investment and jobs and higher living standards for our peoples, vital though those things are. The more we trade together, the more we have a stake in each other’s success, and the more we understand each other, the more that we can work together to confront the problems that face our world today. The stronger the relationship between our countries, the more we’ll be able to have a serious dialogue. We may not always agree but we can discuss issues openly and constructively.
Today Britain and China have strong diplomatic relations, our businesses are creating deeper ties, and our people-to-people links are close. But there are opportunities to do so much more. We should go further on trade and investment, not only for China to invest in the United Kingdom but also for British businesses to expand and grow in China. We should increase our financial and economic cooperation with the UK as the partner of choice for China in the West. And we must do more to work in partnership on the global issues that affect us both, from climate change to tackling poverty, and global health issues, working together to combat instability and extremism.
As President Xi said yesterday, our task is now to seize these opportunities and I would like to say a word on some of the key areas for cooperation. First, trade and investment. Since the last state visit in 2005, our exports to China have quadrupled. In the last 5 years, they’ve increased by 140%, growing to almost £20 billion per year, making us the second largest investor into China. And investment both ways has also grown, with Chinese investment into the UK reaching over $5 billion in 2014. So I want to see more trade flowing between our countries, like Geely, owner of the London Taxi Company, announcing a £50 million investment in the United Kingdom today. We’ve got Chinese companies investing in Heathrow, in Thames Water. We’ve got UK architects designing Chinese cities. And I’m pleased to announce today that we’re signing an historic deal to build the Hinkley nuclear power station, providing reliable, affordable energy to nearly 6 million homes and creating more than 25,000 jobs, all the while working together to build a low carbon future.
Turning now to our economic and financial relationship, China is well on its way to becoming the largest economy in the world. Last year the United Kingdom was the fastest growing economy in the G7, and we are the leading champion within the European Union of open markets and free trade agreements. Here again, we’re determined to take our relationship to the next level, including through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank which will be of enormous benefit to the region as well as opening up more opportunities for British business to help drive growth and jobs. And we were the first Western economy to issue an RMB bond outside China, which will be of great benefit to London.
Today President Xi and I have discussed how we can build on these ties through the UK–China Infrastructure Alliance. This will place UK firms at the forefront of opportunities to work with Chinese companies on infrastructure projects, including President Xi’s One Belt, One Road initiative and our own Northern Powerhouse. We’ve also discussed the excess global supply of steel and how we can tackle it.
But our relationship goes beyond trade and investment. China and Britain are both global powers with a global outlook. We share an interest in a stable and ordered world, in which countries play by the rules and work together to address threats to our security and to our prosperity. We’ve discussed today how, as permanent members of the Security Council, we can deepen that cooperation across the board. We’ve already worked together successfully to deliver an agreement to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. And we’ve talked about some of the less familiar challenges we now face, such as how to tackle antimicrobial resistance, where the UK is a world leader. And I’m pleased today that – to announce that we’ve established a new fund to support vital research and development on this issue.
We also discussed ways in which we can work together on international development, so the UK and China will work more closely to tackle global poverty and promote economic development in Africa, global health, international disaster relief, and opportunities for women and girls. It’s testament to our strong relationship that we’re able to work on these important issues. And also that we’re able to have open discussions on more difficult issues, such as cyber, where we’ve reached a new agreement on cyber-enabled commercial espionage, and on human rights.
So this visit marks the start of a new era. Some have called it a golden era in relations between Britain and China, an era of stronger economic ties, deeper trade links, closer relations between our peoples and meaningful dialogue on the issues that matter to us both. And all of this is routed in a relationship between our 2 old countries, a relationship fit for the 21st century, benefitting not just our nations and our peoples, but also the wider world.
Thank you. President Xi?
President Xi Jinping
Mr Prime Minister, friends from the media, good afternoon. First of all, I wish to convey a cordial greetings and best wishes from the Chinese people towards the British people. The Royal Family and government of the UK have accorded to me thoughtful arrangement and warm hospitality. I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude.
China and the UK are both major countries with significant influence. This year is the beginning of the second decade of China–UK comprehensive strategic partnership and this relationship has come to a new starting point. I’m making this state visit to the UK to build on past achievements, elevate our political mutual trust, deepen practical cooperation in all fields, and take China–UK ties to a new level.
Yesterday, I had a full programme of a state visit accorded to me by Her Majesty the Queen, and I was deeply impressed by the pageantry and warmth throughout. And just now, I had a productive meeting with Prime Minister Cameron. We reached important consensus on many issues, and agreed and announced here that we will build a global comprehensive strategic partnership between our countries in the 21st century and jointly open up a golden era of an enduring inclusive win/win China–UK relationship, and jointly create an even brighter future for our relations.
During the visit we achieved a string of outcomes. Prime Minister and I witnessed the signing of some intergovernmental and business cooperation documents, which include the Hinkley Point nuclear power station with the involvement of Chinese company. And this is a flagship project of cooperation between our countries in recent years, and it will lead to more practical cooperation of this kind between the 2 sides.
Our financial cooperation continues to lead the way. China will issue in London RMB sovereign bond outside China for the first time and the People’s Bank of China will issue in the UK RMB 5 billion central bank bills. And the 2 central banks will extend bilateral currency swap from RMB 200 billion to RMB 350 billion. And the first RMB green bond will be issued in the UK.
There is a saying in English, ‘One today is worth two tomorrows’. And the Chinese people often say, ‘Seize the day, seize the hour’. Let’s seize the opportunity and forge ahead together to promote further progress in China–UK relations and bring more benefits to people of our countries and the rest of the world. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Mr President. I think we’ve got 1 question from the British press and 1 question from the Chinese press. We’ll start with Laura Kuenssberg from the BBC.
Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Prime Minister, if you were a steelworker who had lost their job yesterday, at the same time as seeing President Xi being ferried down Whitehall in a golden carriage, how would you have felt? Is there any price that’s worth paying in order to further our business interests with China?
And President Xi, why do you think members of the British public should be pleased to do more business with a country that is not democratic, is not transparent, and has a deeply, deeply troubling attitude towards human rights?
Well, let me deal very directly with the issue about steel, because we discussed today the importance of the steel industry, and I want a strong and robust British steel industry, and we discussed the problem of global oversupply. And China itself has plans to reduce that supply. But I would completely reject the premise of your question that either you can have an exchange with China about the issue of steel, or indeed about human rights, or you can have a strong relationship with China, which is good for business investment and growth.
My argument, and my contention after 5 years of doing this job, is that you can have both. Indeed, you must have both. The stronger our economic trading, business and other partnerships, the stronger our relationship and the more able we are to have the necessary and frank discussions about other issues. And it’s those discussions and that relationship that leads to that greater understanding that makes that positive.
And what I would say to steelworkers in Britain is: we will take action here in Britain. We will take action on energy costs. We’ll take action to help make sure that we procure British steel for British projects. Where we can take action on tax and other issues, we will take that action. Where we can take action in the European Union, we will take that action.
But actually, the investment we’re talking about today, we’re going to build a nuclear power station in Britain that’s going to have British steel. We’re building Crossrail under the streets of London right now, the biggest construction project anywhere in Europe, employing almost exclusively British steel.
The infrastructure partnerships we’re talking about, the investment that we’re opening up, means more demand for British steel, because that’s the way we’re going to make sure procurement works in Britain. 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’re delivering both, and it’s when you have that strong relationship and the strong partnership that we have, you’re able to discuss all of these issues.
President Xi Jinping
This journalist did not ask me, but I want to say something about the thing that you asked the Prime Minister, the iron and steel issue. The world is facing the overcapacity of iron and steel, not just the UK. This is because of the impact of the international financial crisis, the reduction of demand, and China’s iron and steel industry is also facing excess capacity and the challenge of how to absorb those capacity.
And China has taken a series of steps to reduce the capacity. We have reduced it more than 700 million tonnes of production capacity, and you can just imagine our task of finding jobs for those workers. And the UK is an important partner for China for industrial cooperation. We should not just focus on the competition in this area.
We should see that by the end of our 2014, our investment in the UK totalled $12.8 billion, and we created 6,000 jobs in the UK. And this – during this visit, we’re going to sign a number of documents – cooperation documents, and such agreements will create even more jobs for the UK. We appreciate UK’s commitment to free trade. We hope that will further our industrial dialogue and cooperation. Through collaboration and cooperation, we will be able to resolve trade disputes and frictions, avoid protectionist measures, so that we will move forward our trade relations.
And coming to the human rights issue that you asked, China attaches great importance to the protection of human rights. We combine the universal value of human rights with China’s reality, and we have found a path of human rights development suited to China’s national conditions. With regard to protection of human rights, looking round the world, we know that there is always room for improvement. All countries need to continuously improve and strengthen human rights protection to meet the needs of the time and the people. And on the issue of human rights, I think the people of our respective countries are in the position – in the best position to tell. And China is ready to, on the basis of equality and mutual respect, increase exchanges and cooperation with the UK and other countries in the area of human rights. Thank you.
I am journalist from China. We have learned that the UK government is advancing the plan of ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and want to align with the Belt and Road Initiative. What is your opinion?
President Xi Jinping
The Belt and Road Initiative connects the Asia-Pacific economic circle in the East, and the European economic circle in the West, and there are more than 60 countries along the traditional route. So, we are talking about a global connectivity, and this initiative will bring about more opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation among countries in the region.
And this initiative is warmly received by countries along the route in larger areas. And the UK side has expressed a strong interest in participating in the construction of this initiative, and hopes to align its Northern Powerhouse project with the Belt and Road Initiative.
This is great news. The Belt and Road Initiative is open, and we know that, when everyone adds wood to the fire, the flame will go high. And we welcome the UK’s participation and we encourage Chinese companies to the construction of Northern Powerhouse, and make more investment, so that we will achieve win/win results.
And I will visit Manchester during this trip. I am looking forward to seeing what’s happening in Manchester. Thank you.
One of the points of these in-depth discussions that we’ve been having here today, and will have tomorrow in Chequers, is to better understand each other’s economic strategies and how we can have the maximum benefit for both our countries from them. And I’ve been explaining to the Chinese President how we’ve made some choices in Britain, the choice to prioritise infrastructure investment, like high-speed rail, the choice to rebalance our economy and build the Northern Powerhouse, the choice to give a priority to the high-tech and skills, jobs and training.
Just as the President has been explaining to me the One Belt, One Road initiative and what that means for China, and how other countries can benefit from investing in that vision. And that’s very much, going back to – answer to the original question, that’s the point of such a dialogue is to better understand each other’s economic needs and priorities for mutual benefit.
But thank you very much for coming. Thank you Mr President.