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West firms join PM on trip to China

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 03, 2013

By Phil Goodwin, WMN reporter, Twitter: @Goodwin_Phil

Prime Minister David Cameron arrives at the Great Hall of the People to meet Xhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People's Congress in Beijing

Prime Minister David Cameron arrives at the Great Hall of the People to meet Xhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People's Congress in Beijing

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A Cornish tea producer and a Devon sausage maker have joined the Prime Minister on his trade mission to China.

Jonathon Jones, of the Tregothnan Estate, which started supplying England's first tea in 2005, boarded the delegation plane on Sunday.

Also part of the British contingent was Charles Baughan, who runs Westaway Sausages, based near Newton Abbott.

The pair hope to spread news of the Westcountry's growing reputation for food and drink into the Asian market.

Mr Baughan, whose company is already exporting to Hong Kong, said Asia was a "fascinating and vibrant place".

"There are so many cultures out there and they are traders – it is fast-moving and exciting and as a businessman I am really interested in that," he added.

Tregothnan has already struck a deal which will see tea shipped to China – the birthplace of tea – and the Chinese Embassy's trade minister has visited the Cornwall plantation, at St Michael Penkivel, near Truro.

David Cameron has promised to throw his full political weight behind a free trade agreement between the European Union and China which he believes could be worth tens of billions of pounds a year.

Mr Cameron's call came as he arrived in Beijing at the head of 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 years.

The European Commission is due to begin investment treaty negotiations with China early in the New Year to cut back some of the barriers to trade.

But in talks with premier Li Keqiang yesterday, Mr Cameron was set to become the first EU leader to champion a full-scale free trade agreement, which Downing Street said could be worth £1.8 billion annually to the UK alone.

Writing in Chinese magazine Caixin, Mr Cameron declared his ambition to use this week's visit to help forge "a partnership for growth and reform that can help to deliver the Chinese dream and long-term prosperity for Britain too."

He welcomed signals from last month's crucial Third Plenum of the ruling Communist Party that China is ready to open up further to the rest of the world under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, who took up office a year ago.

And he said that he wanted to send the message that "an open Britain is the ideal partner for an opening China".

"Britain is uniquely placed to make the case for deepening the European Union's trade and investment relationship with China," said Mr Cameron.

Jaguar Land Rover chief executive Ralf Speth was among the 120-strong business delegation accompanying Mr Cameron, along with executives from major exporters like Rolls-Royce, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Barclays, HSBC, GlaxoSmithKline, Arup and Virgin. But the bulk of the delegation was made up of smaller firms, including Moulton bicycles and the Cambridge Satchel Company, which Mr Cameron believes have great opportunities in the fast-expanding Chinese market. Also travelling with the group was Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, and ex- footballer Graeme Le Saux.

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