Trade to top PM Theresa May's agenda during trip to China

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying speaks at a regular news conference in Beijing China Jan. 25 2018

She will hold talks with President Xi Jinping on Thursday and finish her visit Friday in the eastern business hub of Shanghai.

Mrs May said: "In our increasingly interconnected world, any government that is serious about the economic prosperity and security of its people must have an global outlook, and must be prepared to reach out around the world and secure agreements overseas that ensure jobs and prosperity at home".

While recognising that the Belt and Road could potentially offer "huge" opportunities to businesses from outside China, she added: "What I would like to see is ensuring that we have transparency and global standards being adhered to and I will be discussing that with my Chinese interlocutors".

The trip comes against a backdrop of tension between May's government and the Chinese, a record she's keen to improve upon as the United Kingdom looks for trade partners around the world as it prepares to leave the European Union next year.

May's delegation - which includes 50 business leaders, Trade Secretary Liam Fox, a clutch of officials and her husband - are optimistic about progress toward formal trade talks.

In her statement, May said: "I want to step up our relationship with China as it opens up its markets, spreads its prosperity and embraces free trade".

"And I want to see that this happens in a way that protects our values, ensures global security and advances the multi-cultural system and the rules for which we have fought so hard".

Britain's last governor in Hong Kong before it was handed back to the Chinese, Chris Patten, had written to May on Monday urging her to raise concerns over the "increasing threats to the basic freedoms, human rights and autonomy" in the territory.

In another clear message to her concerned backbenchers, the PM played down the leaked impact assessments showing a hit to the economy in all broad end state scenarios with the European Union from extra impediments to trade with our main partner.

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British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday defied critics calling for her to resign, saying she was not a quitter and that she has a long-term job to do: delivering Brexit and domestic reform.

China also has high expectations that London will endorse its Belt and Road initiative, a massive infrastructure project aimed at reviving ancient Silk Road trade routes and creating greater market access for Chinese companies.

Media reports have said the number of "no confidence" letters submitted by lawmakers from May's party is nearing the threshold that would trigger a leadership contest.

May's future as leader of the ruling Conservative Party has been subject to heightened speculation after she gambled past year on a snap election, which went badly wrong and cost her party its majority in Parliament.

The prime minister told reporters she meant to raise both issues in her meeting with China's leaders, though declined to give specifics.

Since then the pressure has been amplified by gaffes, scandals and a growing concern among some that constant infighting over Brexit was drowning out attempts to win back the voters.

But, she acknowledged a need to make sure the messages are better heard by voters and her own party. "What we are doing now is doing the job that the British people asked for a government to do".

The US has hiked tariffs on Chinese steel and called on both the United Kingdom and European Union to do more to stop "dumping" of its products on their markets.

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