Rail, nuclear tech tighten links between China and Britain

Rail, nuclear tech tighten links between China and Britain

Premier Li Keqiang, acting as a super salesman for Chinese products, promoted the nation's high-speed rail and nuclear power technologies to Britain on Tuesday, with a series of landmark deals signed.

Twenty-six agreements worth US$25 billion (S$31.26 billion) were signed on the second day of Li's three-day visit to Britain, his first to the country since taking office last year.

The premier met Queen Elizabeth II in the morning before being hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street after a grand welcoming ceremony.

Li and Cameron oversaw the signing of deals ranging from energy, finance and infrastructure to climate change.

Under a framework agreement, Britain welcomes Chinese firms taking part in its planned high-speed HS2 rail network, a 42 billion pound (S$89.02 billion) project, with the first 192-km stage linking London and Birmingham.

The two sides will attempt to reach consensus on high-speed rail standards, key technologies and equipment.

It will be a milestone for Chinese high-speed rail companies to export technology to Britain, which built the world's first railway in 1825.

Zhao Jian, a professor of transportation economics at Beijing Jiaotong University, said: "China has mature technologies and an excellent record of building railways. It has built thousands of kilometers of rail lines under various climatic conditions."

China boasts the world's longest high-speed rail network, of more than 11,208 km.

Zhao said Tuesday's framework agreement is the initial stage of a much larger cooperation plan, adding, "China may participate in more projects across Europe, especially in the eastern part of the continent."

A high-speed rail line planned in Romania using Chinese technology and financing is being discussed within the European Union, according to China Securities Journal.

Britain also welcomes Chinese investment in the Hink-ley Point project, the UK's first nuclear power station for two decades.

Under an agreement, Chinese companies are welcome to take a lead in developing other British nuclear power plants and establishing Chinese nuclear reactors in the UK.

Last year, Cameron welcomed Chinese investment in Britain's infrastructure sector when he led what was reportedly the biggest trade delegation to visit China.

In return, about 200 Chinese business leaders are accompanying Li on his visit to the UK.

On Tuesday, Li called on the two nations to realise a US$100 billion annual trade target by the end of 2015, up from $70 billion achieved in 2013.

Britain is China's second-largest trading partner in the European Union and its second-largest source of foreign investment.

British companies landed deals worth more than US$25 billion with China.

Oil giant BP signed an agreement worth US$18 billion to provide China National Offshore Oil Corp with liquefied natural gas for 20 years, starting in 2018.

Robert Wine, press officer for BP Group, said the company has a relationship with key Chinese energy companies dating to the 1970s. BP is one of the biggest foreign investors in China's energy sector and intends to continue this relationship, he said.

Royal Dutch Shell announced a global alliance with CNOOC on Tuesday to bolster an already strong relationship. It includes three production-sharing contracts in the Yinggehai Basin in the South China Sea.

The energy deal will help boost China's efforts to reduce reliance on coal and to improve air quality.

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