Speech: Prime Minister’s press conference with Premier Li: 31 January 2018


Premier Li Keqiang:

Right Honourable Prime Minister Theresa May, ladies and gentlemen. On this occasion I want to once again warmly welcome Prime Minister May on her official visit to China.

We just co-chaired the Prime Minister’s annual meeting. During our meeting, we had an in-depth discussion in a wide range of issues: China-UK trade, investment, the international situation, people-to-people exchanges between our two countries, and also issues like intellectual property rights, human rights and other issues. We exchanged views on all these topics and we have come to agree on the following.

First, China and the UK, as major economies in the world, are committed to upholding free trade and pushing forward economic globalisation, and in the process of promoting free trade we will improve relevant rules and to enable free trade to benefit not just our two countries, but more countries and peoples.

We agreed that we will work to maintain the momentum of continued growth in our bilateral relations to take further our relationship in a golden era. We witnessed the signing of intergovernmental cooperation agreements in the areas of trade, investment, people-to-people exchanges. We have delivered substantive results and the two-way opening up between China and the UK will go even further and China will open even wider to the UK. And in line with our agreement, China will expand openness to products of the UK, including agricultural products. China will import UK products that are needed in the Chinese market.

We both face a complex and volatile international situation. We believe it’s important for us to uphold world peace. We are willing to work together more closely in the United Nations and multilateral occasions and strengthen our coordination and collaboration, and we share the responsibility to uphold world peace.

Brexit is a situation that both our countries face, but for a very long time our bilateral relations have been going forward continuously, and our bilateral relationship will not change with the changes of EU-UK relations and we will have assessment and discussion on our trade relationship to make our economic and trade relationship to go forward. We believe that as countries of different cultural backgrounds and national circumstances, our two countries, in our relationship, respect each other and treat each other as equals and we are able to have candid discussions, so Prime Minister May and I had in-depth and candid discussion on a wide range of issues, including the DPRK.

We exchanged views in an in-depth manner on these topics and we agree that with respect for international law and each other’s national circumstances, and on the basis of equal-footed dialogue, we can have further communication on issues of mutual interest and through such dialogue address our differences and disagreements that we may have. But these differences and disagreements only happen from time to time. They are not the mainstream, not the mainstream of our bilateral relations and they will not be allowed to affect the larger picture of this relationship. I’m sure this relationship will go forward smoothly.

Later we will have a meeting with the businessmen. We hope that our consensus could be implemented in the business community and at the practical level.

Now, the Prime Minister is visiting China in winter, but the spring is just around the corner. I always believe that, in our bilateral relationship, we don’t have winter at all but we have a spring and beautiful spring scenery. Thank you. Now the floor is yours, Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Theresa May:

Well, thank you very much, Premier Li, and I’m very pleased to be here in Beijing today on my first official prime ministerial visit to China, and although I may be visiting in winter, I have had the warmest of welcomes, for which I am very grateful, and I welcome the opportunity we’ve had today to discuss a wide range of topics in an open way, important issues which face us both, and I look forward to continuing that discussion over dinner tonight and with President Xi tomorrow.

I’m pleased that we’ve agreed to intensify the golden era of UK-China relations. UK and China are both global powers with a global outlook and you made reference, Premier Li, to the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. As we do so and become ever more outward-looking, and as China continues to reform and open up, we’re committed to deepening our strong and vital partnership, and that relationship, our relationship, is indeed broad and deep and it delivers real benefits to both countries.

We’re working together to tackle global and regional security challenges, such as North Korea, modern slavery, threats to aviation security, to build sustainable economies of the future and enhance our bilateral trade and investment relationships, and to develop our strong education and societal links, and I’d just like to say a few more words of detail on each of these.

Premier Li Keqiang:

We also talked about excess capacity of steel.

Prime Minister Theresa May:

We did indeed, yes.

Global issues[hhmc]

As fellow permanent members of the UN Security Council and the G20, we’re committed to jointly addressing global challenges. Indeed, steel is one of those challenges that the G20 has discussed. We’re also committed to protecting and promoting the rules-based international system.

As we said, we’ve discussed North Korea. We agree that its pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile programmes is illegal, reckless and poses an unacceptable threat to international peace and security. And we’ve agreed the full and effective implementation of UN Security Council sanctions is vital to persuade the North Korean regime to change course and abandon its illegal activity.

We’ve agreed today new measures on aviation security designed to improve aviation security standards in both the UK and China, by sharing more information and undertaking visits to share best practice and observe standards of implementation.

And we will also do more together to tackle the scourge of modern slavery, to disrupt and prosecute the organised crime groups responsible, and to protect victims; and we will begin new joint work to tackle other forms of serious organised crime, including the illegal supply of synthetic drugs.

Trade and investment[hhmc]

We have discussed on how our economies have complementary strengths. Trade between our two countries is already at record levels, worth over £59 billion. UK exports to China have grown by over 60% since 2010 and the UK is already one of the largest European recipients of Chinese foreign direct investment. The UK is the world’s largest exporter of financial services and UK firms are leaders in China’s market. And we’re determined to deepen our trading relationship even further, and we’re ambitious for what our future trade relationship will be. So we will work together to explore all options to deliver a high level of ambition for that future trading relationship. And we’ve today launched a joint trade and investment review to identify priorities for promoting growth in goods, services and investment.

And as Premier Li has referred to, later today there will be the inaugural meeting of the new UK China CEO Council which will bring together business leaders and ministers to strengthen trade and economic cooperation. And to pave the way for this ambitious future trading relationship, we’ve agreed new measures to improve market access in China and remove barriers to trade. And this includes an agreement to make progress on the lifting of the BSE ban on British beef exports within the next six months, and an agreement to allow exports of a broader range of dairy products from the UK to China.

We’ve also agreed to open up the Chinese market to enable our great UK financial services expertise to reach more Chinese consumers. And we’ll be pleased to welcome a significant number of major new commercial deals, due to be agreed during this visit, expected to total over £9 billion, creating and securing jobs and prosperity both here and in the UK.

We’ve welcomed the opportunities provided by the Belt and Road Initiative to further prosperity and sustainable development across Asia and the wider world, and as with the Asian infrastructure investment bank, the UK is a natural partner for the Belt and Road initiative with our unrivalled City of London expertise. And as I’ve discussed with Premier Li – we’ve discussed how the UK and China will continue to work together to identify how best we can cooperate on the Belt and Road initiative across the region and ensure it meets international standards.

We’ll work together to encourage free and fair trade, ensure a transparent rules-based multilateral trading system, and build an open, global economy that works for all. And as partners committed to global free trade, we can work to ensure that as our companies innovate and develop new products, they’re confident that their intellectual property and rights will be fully protected, including against cyber threats.

And as Premier Li mentioned and reminded us, we’ve also discussed overcapacity in global markets, in sectors such as steel, and the need to see G20 principles adhered to, and further action taken to ensure unfair trading practices are tackled.


But our societies share broad and deep cultural ties as well and there are already strong links between the people of UK and China, not just between or governments. Chinese students already constitute the largest single source of overseas students in the UK, with the UK welcoming 155,000 students from China, who make a valuable contribution to our society, as well as adding an estimated £5 billion annually to our economy.

There are also now some 9,000 young British people studying and interning in China with numbers up by 60% since 2013. Today, we have agreed to go even further on our education partnership, including by extending the pioneering Shanghai maths teacher exchange primary school programme for a further two years to 2020, and expanding the programme to secondary schools. We’ve also agreed to launch a new global partners 2020 programme to build better direct links and networks between our future leaders across government, business and academia.


So the UK and China are global partners for the long term. We are committed to building on our deep and mature ties, to promote global peace and prosperity in the 21st Century. And I look forward, Premier Li, to continuing those discussions. Thank you.



Thank you very much, Premier and Prime Minister. [Inaudible]. You are here to build on the existing important relationship between the two countries. But Prime Minister, on the journey here, you acknowledge that you and your government have to do more to be convincing. But as we landed there was more confusion and accusations about Brexit at home. What is it that you plan to do differently, and will you stand up to your critics?

And if I may, a question to you both. You discussed international threats. Last night, President Trump proclaimed that China was a challenge to America. Prime Minister, do you agree with him? And Premier Li, how do you respond to that?

Prime Minister Theresa May:

Thank you. On the first point that you raised, Laura, in relation to what the government is doing both on Brexit and indeed on our domestic agenda, on Brexit we’re obviously working to that future trading relationship with the European Union. We achieved that sufficient progress in December and we’re now moving onto the next stage of those negotiations. And we’re determined to ensure that we get the best Brexit deal for the United Kingdom and that means it will be a deal that will ensure that we take back control of our money, of our laws, and our borders, but we’re also able to maintain a good trading relationship with the EU for the future because that is good for both the United Kingdom and for the European Union.

On the domestic agenda, if you look at what we’ve been doing over the recent weeks and months, I think that there are many people in the United Kingdom who want to ensure that they and their families can achieve the British dream, of ensuring that each generation has a better future than the last. For a lot of young people that’s about owning their own home, being able to get their foot on the housing ladder. We’ve cut stamp duty for 95% of first time buyers and I’m pleased to say that figures out only last week showed that we’ve seen the highest number of first-time buyers in the last year for a decade.

We’ve also been ensuring that young people get the best start in life, with a good quality education; nearly two million more children in good and outstanding schools now. And we also of course want to ensure, through the work we do to continue to cut the deficit, and to develop a balanced approach to our economy, that we are seeing good jobs being created. Unemployment is at its lowest level since the 1970s.

And yes, we do need to do more, and we do need to ensure that we are talking about what we have already achieved to those young people who worry about whether they’ll get their own home, to those parents who are concerned about the education their children will be getting, to people who are worried about the jobs for the future for their children. And that’s what we will be doing. And I’m committed to delivering on that.

And if you talk about the role of China, what we have been discussing here is the excellent relations that we have with our golden era of UK-China relations, but how we can be working together, not just to improving those links between us, which will be of benefit to people in the UK and in China, but also on delivering and working together on some of those global issues, such as North Korea and other issues like modern slavery which have an impact around the world.

Premier Li Keqiang:

China has been committed to upholding global peace and developing normal state-to-state relations with the rest of the international community. And to promoting enduring peace and stability in the world. And that is the principle China has followed in developing international relations. No matter what changes may happen in the UK’s relations with other parts of the world, China will remain committed in its policy [inaudible] friendly ties with the UK and I have faith in the brighter prospects of China-UK ties. Just now, Prime Minister May and I co-chaired a new round of the Premier’s Summit, and we also witnessed the signing of some dozen agreements between the two countries. I believe that shows the success of the Premier’s Summit, and the Prime Minister’s visit to China.

As for the United States, I want to say that we always have eyes on the common interests between China and the United States. If one views the relationship between China and the US in the overall context, it is true that there are certain differences, but I’m sure that in the overall context the common interests far outweigh our differences and disagreements. [Inaudible] of China-US ties in the past several decades has shown that despite the twists and turns in the growth of the China-US relationship, which we may not be able to fully avoid, China-US relationship on the whole has been moving forward, and enjoyed overall stability.

Steady growth of the China-US relationship is in the interests of the two countries, which are the largest developing and developed countries in the world. It is also in the interests of the world. China hopes that the United States will work with us and continue to view this relationship in a positive overall perspective, expand common interests and properly manage the possible differences between the two countries, so that even if there are differences and disagreements, the overall positive side of the relationship will always prevail, and serve the steady growth of this bilateral relationship. I believe that is also the interest of China-UK relations, and the overall international relationship as well as global peace. Thank you.


From CGTN, CCTV, are two questions for the two Prime Ministers. The first one is for Premier Li. I understand a series of cooperation agreements have been signed during the visit, showing the bright prospects of our business ties. At the same time, we are also witnessing rising protectionism and isolationism, so I want to ask what measures will China and the UK take to boost globalisation and free trade? And what roles do you think the two countries can play?

A question for Prime Minister May. Brexit, to be honest, is not just an issue of interest for the British public but also for the Chinese people. So Prime Minister May, certain British media said that China may very well become the best partner for the UK after Brexit. So, in the context of Brexit and post Brexit, how do you see the prospects for the UK’s cooperation and relations with China?

Premier Li Keqiang:

As I said in my opening remarks, when Prime Minister May and I co-chaired the Premier’s Summit, the first thing we talked about was how we would work together to uphold free trade and advanced globalisation. We’re both major economies in the world, we’re both major trading nations, so it’s essential for us to send out a strong, united message that is: we’re both for the free trade regime and the globalisation cause. We both believe that we need to see adjustments to the rules concerned in the course of globalisation. We also need to work to expand trade between our two countries as well as mutual investment.

China is a major agricultural country. We have sufficient supply in the domestic market from our own sources, but we would like to give the Chinese consumers more options in accessing higher quality agricultural products, hence we are prepared to buy more from the UK in terms of agricultural produce. Eventually, I believe it is of mutual benefit. It’s a decision made by the market. When we look at the trade ties from a historical perspective and from a broader perspective, any business behaviour or acts on the market, as long as it follows the market principles, we believe overall it brings more benefits and delivers benefits to future generations too.

For the BBC journalist who asked about China-US relations, likewise, I hope as I said before, we hope there will be objective perspective taken on China US ties, and when we take such a perspective in viewing different issues, in viewing market developments, issues that may have arisen between our two countries, and if we take positive steps to address them it will be a process of delivering benefits to both. It is in such a spirit that we have been expanding our trade, working together with the British side, and we will continue to encourage competitive Chinese companies to invest in the UK too.

In our discussions, I said to Prime Minister May that there has been such a view, saying that the Chinese government was imposing controls on the outflow of capital when there were fluctuations in RMB exchange rates, and I said to the Prime Minister that this is not true, and nor should we take such measures to block the normal flow of money or capital. We will, as always, continue to encourage the mutual investment between the business communities, and we did not take against the market rules controls on such flow. We believe such investment should fall amongst principals and should be welcomed.

I know that last year, China made more investment in the UK than almost any other European country, and that investment has been on the rise. I’m sure that will also be a hot topic to be discussed when we meet the business representatives who welcome more British investment in China too. There will be greater mutual flow over investment, I hope.

We have also made the announcement of the issuance of more Panda bonds, and we have also talked about the review and discussion regarding the stock [inaudible] between London and Shanghai stock exchanges. All of these are concrete measures of opening and demonstrating our commitment to openness to the world and in pursuing our closer cooperation, I have confidence that we will continue to send out a clear message to our peoples and to the market that we will continue to advance trade liberalisation and investment facilitation, continue to advance globalisation and oppose protectionism in all its forms. We also believe it is natural that we follow mutually-agreed things and international roles in promoting free trade. Thank you.

Prime Minister Theresa May:

Well, thank you, and the second question to me was about Brexit, and the impact that this will have. As we leave the European Union, we will become a country that is able to operate an independent trade policy to sign free-trade agreements around the rest of the world, and that is exactly what we will be looking to do. And it is – we believe that that is in the best interests of the people of the United Kingdom, but also those free-trade agreements bring benefits to the countries with whom we sign them.

We will also be a more outward-looking United Kingdom. We want to build a global Britain that is able to sign those free trade agreements, that is continuing to play its role on the world stage in the various multilateral organisations we’re part of, working alongside China and the other members for example in the United Nations. But I think, in terms of the future for the relationship between the UK and China, when we leave the European Union, we’ve today agreed this joint review of trade – joint trade and investment review, which I think is a good step looking towards what our future trade relationship can be when we have that freedom outside membership of the European Union of being able to organise those arrangements for ourselves on a bilateral basis. And as Premier Li has said, there are many concrete examples already of the way in which that trade is developing between our countries. And I think the message of free trade, and the importance of free trade, is best seen by the examples of the actual trade that we see, which brings jobs and investment to China and the UK.

Premier Li Keqiang:

Let me add to that. Now, there is a view shared by the whole world that is the international economic and financial crisis is turning into a momentum of recovery and this momentum of recovery will not come by easily. And in this context, I think all countries need to send a strong signal of win-win cooperation in order to give a stable expectation of the world and the market for global [inaudible] and development. Thank you.

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