BEIJING, June 12 China's Premier Li Keqiang will
discuss infrastructure, high-speed rail, nuclear and finance
deals during a trip to Britain next week, as well as London's
role as an offshore yuan trading hub, a senior Chinese official
said on Thursday.
Li will meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron at
his London residence on June 17, a reciprocal visit following
the British leader's trip to China last year. Li will also go to
Greece on the June 16-21 trip.
British finance minister George Osborne opened the door to
further Chinese investment during a visit to Beijing last year.
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.
Osborne also paved the way for Chinese investors to take
majority stakes in future British nuclear plants.
Speaking to reporters ahead of Li's visit, deputy Chinese
commerce minister Gao Yan signalled further agreements would be
"London has all along dedicated itself to becoming a
renminbi trading centre. Relevant departments in China and
Britain have had proactive investigations into this," she said,
using the formal name for China's currency.
"On this visit to Britain by Premier Li I believe that there
will be positive developments on this issue, including on
financial cooperation," Gao added. "We will fully make use of
London's position as a financial centre to further develop
China's finance industry."
China Construction Bank, China's second-largest
lender, has been selected to become the first clearing service
for renminbi trading in London, the Financial Times
reported this week.
The internationalisation of the yuan is one of China's most
ambitious and hotly debated reform projects. From less than 1
percent in 2009, nearly a fifth of China's trade is now settled
The objective is to increase the usage of the currency for
trade, investment, and as a reserve currency, while lowering
forex risk for Chinese companies and reducing the country's
exposure to U.S. economic policy.
FREE TRADE DEAL TALK
There could also be agreements on energy, infrastructure and
high speed rail, Gao said, praising Britain's open attitude
towards foreign investment which she said was a "model" for the
rest of Europe.
"Britain has a sound legal system, a transparent oversight
environment. As long as companies accord with the law and the
rules and demands of the regulators generally, then investment
and business will have no barriers," Gao added.
She said that both countries should work to push for a
multi-billion-dollar free trade deal between Beijing and the
Cameron expressed his support for this when he was in
Beijing in December, riling the EU executive which rejected the
move as premature.
On the Greek leg of Li's trip, there will also be
infrastructure and energy agreements, and China will encourage
Chinese companies to participate in Greece's privatisation
programme, Gao said.
She declined to provide details on any of the deals that
could be signed in Britain or Greece, saying it would be a
China's Cosco Group and four other suitors have
been shortlisted as potential buyers of a majority stake in
Piraeus Port Authority OLP, Greek privatisation agency
HRADF said last week.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)