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British Leader Signs Trade Deals, Discusses Human Rights With China

  • Luis Ramirez

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he is optimistic that China will eventually match its economic development with democracy and more respect for human rights. The U.K. leader held talks in Beijing with Chinese officials on Tuesday.

Mr. Blair joined Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao for the signing of several agreements on issues ranging from Chinese purchases of European aircraft to the British purchase of a nearly 20 percent stake of a Chinese bank.

The British leader said he also touched on the issue of China's human rights record. Mr. Blair said Mr. Wen seemed willing to discuss the issue, and to grasp what is at stake for Beijing in its dealings with the international community.

"It's not that people resent China, but they've got a question mark because they see this enormous economic power and they ask, 'Well, will this developing economy be matched by political development and development in the field of human rights as well?'" he said.

The British leader said that in a country that is developing very fast, there is usually "unstoppable momentum" toward greater political freedom and human rights.

Commercial deals signed Tuesday included the sale of 10 Airbus A-330 passenger jets to the state-owned China Southern Airlines, and the $123 million sale of a 19.99 percent share of China's Bohai Bank to the U.K.'s Standard Chartered.

The two countries also inked agreements on cultural exchanges and tourism.

Mr. Blair, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, arrived in China on Monday as Chinese and European Union negotiators reached a tentative deal that raises the limits on European imports of Chinese textiles.

He headed to India late Tuesday for a European Union-Indian summit in New Delhi.

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