December 15, 2017 / 12:46 AM / a month ago

Britain's finance minister, central bank chief head to China seeking deals

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain hopes to seal a billion pounds ($1.34 billion) worth of trade and investment agreements with China during weekend visit by finance minister Philip Hammond, Bank of England chief Mark Carney and senior executives.

The Beijing visit is the latest instalment in long-running economic talks between the two states but it has now taken on new importance for Britain as it looks to re-invent itself as a global trading nation after leaving the European Union in 2019.

“We are committed to working with our partners to build a truly global Britain, and our relationship with China is strong, growing, and delivering benefits for both countries,” Hammond said in a statement released by his office ahead of the trip.

The focus on a “Golden Era” of relations, touted loudly by both sides in 2015 when then-prime minister David Cameron hosted a state visit by President Xi Jinping, has cooled under Cameron’s successor Theresa May.

In 2016 she caused a diplomatic spat by unexpectedly deciding to delay approval of a partly-Chinese funded nuclear power project. She later granted it, but not before drawing criticism from Beijing.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney attends a working session during the One Planet Summit at the Seine Musicale center in Boulogne-Billancourt, near Paris, France, December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Nevertheless, the government said on Friday it wanted to begin a new phase. Hammond will meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Vice Premier Ma Kai and other officials.

Business Minister Greg Clarke will also travel to Beijing along with a delegation of executives including London Stock Exchange CEO Nikhil Rathi and representatives from major financial firms such as BlackRock, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank.

Talks are expected to focus on a more integrated approach to financial services, new industrial partnerships and economic reform.

Previous rounds of discussions have looked at how to develop London as an offshore hub for trading China’s currency and closer integration of the two countries’ stock markets.

Clark will hold energy-specific talks focused on clean and renewable power generation.

($1 = 0.7444 pounds)

Reporting by William James Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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