Bid for free trade with China as UK aims for closer links

PRIME Minister David Cameron has backed a free trade agreement with China ahead of talks with Premier Li Keqiang today.

The European Commission is due to begin negotiations with China early in the new year aimed at cutting barriers to trade.

The proposal is likely to face stiff resistance from some EU states who fear their markets will be flooded with cheap Chinese imports.

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But writing ahead of the start of his visit to China, Mr Cameron said: “Building on the recent launch of EU-China negotiations on investment, and on China’s continued commitment to economic reform, I now want to set a new long-term goal of an ambitious and comprehensive EU-China Free Trade Agreement.”

Mr Cameron is heading the largest British trade delegation ever to visit the far eastern country, which has emerged to become the world’s second biggest economy in recent 

And the trip began today with a deal to boost the profile of Premier League football and encourage the growth of the game in the far eastern country.

English football is becoming increasingly popular in China, with stars like Wayne Rooney heroes to growing numbers of fans, and the Premier League sees the country as its biggest potential area for growth, at the heart of an east Asian market already worth £200m in TV rights and merchandising.

The deal with the Chinese Super League will see the Premier League work with clubs like Beijing Guoan and Shanghai Shenhua to promote and develop the game, while the CSL will support the promotion and marketing of Premier League clubs in China.

But in a speech, Labour leader Ed Miliband was due to accuse the Prime Minister of trying to compete with China by keeping wages and skills in Britain low.

He will say: “David Cameron needs to understand a simple truth: we’re not going to win a race with China by winning a race to the bottom, by competing on low pay and low skills. And, if we try, it will be the people of Britain who lose.

“The only way we can compete with China – and the only way Britain can win – is by winning a race to the top... where we compete on the basis of high skill, high tech, high wage economy – encouraging small businesses who want to grow, helping young people like you who want to get on and businesses like these which want to train, backing the real wealth creators in our country.”