May Leaves China with Trade Deals amid Brexit Uncertainty

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May wrapped up her China visit on Friday, concluding the three-day trip with the announcement of a series of trade agreements.

May announced deals with China worth over £9.3 billion (US$13.26 billion), which the government claims will create more than 2,500 jobs in the UK. The Chinese government also agreed to end its ban on UK beef, while allowing increased market access for dairy producers and certain UK financial service firms.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to upgrade the “golden era” in bilateral relations, at a time when the UK seeks alternative trade partners as it extricates itself from the EU. Currently, China-UK trade is worth about £59 billion (US$84.1 billion) per year.

However, May failed to endorse Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative despite China lobbying her to sign a memorandum of understanding in support of the plan. While May balked at the chance to become the first Western country to formally sign on with the Belt and Road, the two countries agreed to an RMB 10 billion (US$1.58 billion) fund for projects in countries covered by the initiative.

During the visit, which included stops in Wuhan, Beijing, and Shanghai, May also stressed the need to address plastic waste management, and gave Xi a box set of the BBC nature series Blue Planet II. May endeared herself to Chinese social media users, who referred to her warmly as Auntie May.


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