China will boost ties with the United Kingdom under the Belt and Road Initiative and in fields such as nuclear power, high-speed railroads, finance and high-tech trade, Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday.

Both countries should further open to each other and align development strategies, Li said when meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, who started her first official visit to China on Wednesday.

After the meeting, they witnessed the signing of 12 cooperative agreements, including a memorandum of understanding to grant loan credit of 10 billion yuan ($1.59 billion) for projects under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.

China is also ready to review and begin the preparation of the Shanghai-London Stock Connect at an appropriate time, Li said. As important economies and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China and the UK firmly support economic globalization, trade liberalization and investment facilitation, he said.

May said Britain is ready to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative and explore exchanges in innovation, finance, intellectual property rights and artificial intelligence.

China-UK relations entered “a golden era” and the nations announced they would build a global comprehensive strategic partnership, President Xi Jinping said during his visit to Britain in 2015. The two countries maintain three high-level dialogues in security, economic and financial cooperation, and people-to-people exchanges.

This year marks the 46th anniversary of ambassadorial diplomatic relations between the two nations. May is the sixth British prime minister to visit China, following David Cameron’s two trips to China in 2013 and 2010.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, bilateral trade hit $79 billion in 2017, a year-on-year increase of 6.2 percent. By the end of last year, Britain had made direct investments of $1.5 billion in China, while China’s nonfinancial investment in the UK hit $1.53 billion.

May leads a large delegation that includes the management of 50 British enterprises. Also on Wednesday, Li and May met with members of the UK-China CEO Council to hear about their suggestions on investment and trade. Li said the council should play a consulting role in bilateral trade and both sides should take the opportunity to expand trade and investment for healthier ties.

China is an important trading partner for Britain, especially when it’s leaving the European Union, and May’s visit is to reinforce the” golden era” for bilateral relations, said Chen Fengying, a senior world economy researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Chen said Britain, as the first developed country to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, wants to participate in more projects under the framework of Belt and Road Initiative. China also can work with it in the financial and manufacturing sectors, she said.

“The UK is seeking to maintain London’s status of a global financial center, which cannot be achieved if it cannot maintain the offshore renminbi business,” she added.




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