SHANGHAI — British Prime Minister Theresa May said Friday she discussed with Chinese President Xi Jinping the importance of removing barriers to commerce, especially for British food, drink and financial services, as the two countries move toward a future trading arrangement for after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.
May said the two leaders in their Thursday discussions agreed on a “trade and investment review” as a first step to future bilateral arrangements.
“As President Xi, quoting Shakespeare, said to me yesterday, what’s past is prologue. And I wholeheartedly agree. The U.K. and China are opening a new chapter in our golden era,” May said.
May discussed her meeting with Xi at a conference in Shanghai where she was introduced by the founder of Chinese online shopping giant Alibaba, Jack Ma.
She is to fly home later Friday, capping a three-day, three-city visit to China.
May’s meeting with Xi also included discussion of cooperation under China’s “Belt and Road” mega-plan for trade and infrastructure links across Asia.
May has been hesitant to endorse the trillion dollar-plus initiative, although on Wednesday she expressed conditional support for British involvement as long as such projects adhere to established global business practices.
Business deals worth more than 9 billion pounds ($13 billion) were to be announced before her visit ended, May earlier announced.
Bolstering ties with China became more urgent after Britain voted in 2016 to leave the EU, compelling it to forge new trade agreements outside of the 28-nation bloc.
British exports to China are up 60 percent since 2010, and China is expected to be one of the U.K.’s biggest foreign investors by 2020.
May’s visit coincided with the crash of a minivan into pedestrians in downtown Shanghai Friday morning in which 18 people were injured. Police ruled the crash an accident caused when the driver set the vehicle on fire by smoking then lost control.