The ambitious long-term goal of securing a free trade deal with the world’s second-largest economy comes as May begins a three-day visit to China accompanied by businesses from sectors where Britain feels it can capitalise on China’s growing middle class consumers and rapidly expanding services sector.
“China is a country that we want to do a trade deal with,” May told reporters aboard her Royal Air Force jet on the way to Wuhan — a university city where she will announce half a billion pounds worth of education deals.
“But, I think that there is more we can be doing in the interim…in terms of looking at potential barriers to trade and the opening up of markets to ensure…British businesses able to do good trade into China.”
China accounts for just a small proportion of British exports, 3.1 percent in 2016, compared with 43 percent for the European Union.
While diplomatic sources say China has expressed willingness to talk about a future free trade deal with Britain, formal talks cannot begin until Britain officially leaves the EU next year. Free trade talks typically take many years to conclude.
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