Cameron seals £1.4bn trade deal with China

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The Independent Online

The Chinese premier warned Britain against "finger-pointing" and "lecturing" the world's most populous nation about human rights abuses yesterday as he signed trade agreements worth £1.4bn with David Cameron.

The carefully orchestrated three-day visit by Wen Jiabao included a visit to Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, a tour of a Birmingham car factory and a show of pomp in London away from demonstrators.

But the key moment came yesterday when the two leaders witnessed 24 trade agreements and memorandums of understanding between the two countries, covering banking, mining, oil and gas, alcohol and even the supply of 800 pigs to China.

The deals came as a welcome boost for Mr Cameron, who is anxious to close the huge trade gap with China and to tap more effectively into a burgeoning consumer market.

But the Prime Minister faces a tricky balancing act in winning new business for British exporters at the same time as highlighting the Beijing government's lamentable human rights record.

Mr Cameron insisted yesterday that "nothing is off-limits" in the discussions between the governments – and privately raised the imprisonment of prominent dissidents, who include the Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo.

In a joint press conference in the Foreign Office, he attempted to reconcile the two issues by arguing that better human rights help foster economic growth. Beijing had removed a possible stumbling block to the talks by releasing the artist Ai Weiwei and the environmentalist Hu Jia on bail days before Mr Wen landed in Britain.