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China, UK Sign Multiple Deals

Premier Wen Jiabao and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, after three hours of wide-ranging discussion, yesterday oversaw the signing of a series of trade contracts including airline and banking deals.


Blair is in Beijing to attend the ongoing China-EU summit.


"I think it is fair to call our meetings in-depth, practical, frank and productive," Wen said. "I do believe that this is a very important visit, so that we can discuss our relations and major international and regional issues of common concern."


Blair praised the approach China had taken in the last two days, which included a settlement of a Sino-EU trade row that had left 80 million Chinese-made garments piled up at European ports.


"The length of our meetings both yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday) gave us an opportunity to discuss issues in depth, but it has really been the frankness and openness of our discussions that have been most appreciated," Blair said.


He said the chance to exchange views had made him "very content indeed."


Trade and investment took up most of their time, but they also touched on other subjects such as human rights, China's market economy status, Taiwan and Hong Kong.


Asia-focused British bank Standard Chartered will invest about US$123 million to buy a 19.99 percent interest in Bohai Bank -- China's first national joint stock bank to be established since 1996 and to be based in north China's Tianjin Municipality.


The agreement marks the lender's first investment on the Chinese mainland, and is close to the maximum 20 percent a single foreign investor can hold in a domestic bank.


Aircraft maker Airbus signed a deal to sell China Southern Airlines 10 A330 planes. The planes, worth about US$1.8 billion at list price, will be delivered in 2007 and 2008.


Iain Gray, general manager of Airbus UK, said the eight A330-330s and two A330-200s would supplement four A330-200s China Southern had previously ordered.


The airliner sales will help protect 135,000 jobs in the UK, which makes the wings, landing gear and fuel systems, he said.


Si Xianmin, president of China Southern, said the 10 additional jets would increase his company's capability and flexibility, especially in domestic trunk and regional routes.


Standard Chartered Chairman Bryan Sanderson said: "We have been in China for 150 years. Now we're being allowed to do more and more."


The UK is the largest European investor in China, spending US$12 billion in the country as of end 2004.


Moving on to exhibition and research, curators of the National Museum of China (NMC) and the British Museum (BM) signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen exchanges and cooperation in their field.


The memorandum states that the BM plans to exhibit the highlights of its worldwide collections at the NMC in Beijing when it reopens in 2008 after renovation works.


In addition, the two museums will also organize an exchange program for researchers to conduct technological and academic cooperation.


At a breakfast meeting with Chinese investors yesterday, Blair predicted trade and investment between Britain and China could reach US$40 billion in the next five years.


Praising Sino-British cooperation in UN reform, anti-terrorism, trade, investment, science and culture, Wen told Blair yesterday that the two countries should expand their cooperation in all fields.


Blair said the multi-level dialogue between the UK and China created a sound environment for promoting bilateral relations, and his country would further cooperate with China in a bid to promote trade and economic ties.


(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency September 7, 2005)

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