Unabashed Osborne closes China trip by mapping out trade mission to Iran
George Osborne ended his contentious visit to China yesterday declaring that next year he wants to take what is expected to be Britain’s biggest ever trade delegation to Iran.
The chancellor told the Financial Times he was prepared to take risks to boost the economy, including engaging with a Tehran regime that has only recently come in from the cold.
“We can either sit on the sidelines, watch the world move ahead and gradually decline plenty of other countries are taking that path or we can get out there and plant our flag in the
ground,” he said.
Mr Osborne’s fiveday tour of China was criticised by human rights groups and some European diplomats who said his approach was crudely mercantilist.
The chancellor courted controversy by visiting Xinjiang, a remote region where Beijing is accused of using heavyhanded tactics in suppressing “extremists” in the Muslim Uighur
community. Mr Osborne said he deliberately chose provocative venues including a visit to the Shanghai stock exchange, scene of recent market chaos to make the statement that
Britain was with China for the long run.
“I wanted to take a bit of a risk with the China relationship,” he said. “I wanted to push it so it really brings jobs and growth to our country.”
Mr Osborne, who spent the last leg of his tour in the Sichuan capital of Chengdu drumming up investment for his “northern powerhouse” project, said he was eyeing a potentially even
more ambitious trade trip.
“Assuming that Iran honours the nuclear deal and it’s properly verified, I think there will be growing potential to do business with Iran,” he said. “Next year I would love to lead a proper,
big economic and trade delegation to Iran.”
Mr Osborne’s courting of China has shocked some of Britain’s allies. One western diplomat in Beijing said: “The UK’s China policy seems to have been reduced to pursuing
commercial interests. There’s nothing wrong with looking after your business interests, but how far do you go?”
Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, wrote of President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Britain next month: “All he will have to do is write some cheques, bail out whichever of Osborne’s pet
projects are in most trouble and then marvel at just how cheaply the British can be bought.”
George Parker Chengdu
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