David Cameron talks democracy in China

David Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron pledged on Wednesday to fight trade protectionism ahead of the G20, while setting out the benefits of multi-party democracy in comments likely to rile his hosts China

Cameron, leading Britain’s biggest-ever trade delegation to China on his first visit as prime minister, had said on Tuesday that it was not his place to lecture or hector the Chinese leadership over its human rights record and one-party rule.

In a meeting with China’s President Hu Jintao in the Great Hall of the People, the two leaders stressed again the importance of developing Britain’s relationship with China and pledged to fight protectionism ahead of G20 leaders summit in Seoul.

“Britain will go on arguing that in Europe we should be open to trade from China and not putting up trade walls, and we need you to help us to make that argument about why protectionism is wrong,” Cameron told Hu.

Cameron also welcomed the launch of a $500 million Britain-China investment fund by private equity house First Eastern Group.

With Britain angling to double bilateral trade with China by 2015, he said the world’s second-largest economy offered prospects for British firms in a raft of sectors including retail, banking, insurance, high-tech and pharmaceuticals.

However, later in the day, Cameron planned to use a speech to students at Peking University to talk up Western-style democracy.


According to advance excerpts of the speech, Cameron would reflect on Britain’s election in May that brought him to power at the head of a rare two-party coalition government.

Cameron said Britain had “two different political parties — the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats – with different histories and political philosophies, working together for the good of our country.”

He noted that he had to account for his actions on a weekly basis in prime minister’s questions in parliament, and that the government was always subject to the rule of law.

“At times they can be frustrating when the courts take a view with which the government differs,” the prime minister said.

“But ultimately we believe that they make our government better and our country stronger. ” He said having free media was important despite the criticism and discomfort it sometimes brought the government.

Cameron’s speech has echoes of one made a year ago by U.S. President Barack Obama to an audience of students in Shanghai, where he championed Internet freedom and human rights.

The prime minister met Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday. His speech to students was his last engagement before heading to the G20 summit in South Korea.

Human rights advocates had accused Cameron of soft-pedalling political criticism of his hosts as he pursues a target of doubling trade with China to more than $100 billion (63 billion pounds) by 2015.

A $1.2 billion deal signed by aero-engine maker Rolls-Royce was the high point so far of a trade push spearheaded by Cameron and also featuring four other senior ministers and more than 40 business chiefs.
Source: Reuters

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