Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has visited UK Prime Minister David Cameron as part of China’s annual visit to the country.
Cameron is hoping to make a breakthrough on China’s 30-year ban of British beef and lamb, in a deal which could be worth up to £120 million to the UK economy.
The summit takes place six months after Cameron’s trip to China, and follows an 8% increase in bilateral trade between the two countries in 2013, with these talks on UK beef and lamb exports the first talks of their kind since the 1980s, when restrictions were imposed due to BSE.
They follow discussions during the Prime Minister’s visit to China in December last year, during which an export deal was secured for pork products, worth up to £45m for the UK.
UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Owen Paterson said he welcomed a new agreement between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Chinese authorities to begin negotiations on opening export routes for British beef and lamb suppliers to China, achieved during trade talks hosted by the UK Prime Minister and the Foreign Office.
Paterson said: "This landmark agreement will be a great boost to British food exporters, a major part of our long-term economic plan, and could be worth millions to our economy. British beef and lamb are excellent quality, so I welcome the opportunity to begin talks with the Chinese government to open trade routes for these great products once again."
John Cross, chairman of UK beef and lamb levy body Eblex, said: "The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding is a major step forward in our negotiations to help secure market access to China for our beef and lamb.
"This is something we have been working on for some time already, together with government and a number of other agencies. It is a long-haul project, but the potential prize is very big for the UK.
"As the most rapidly growing market in the world for beef and lamb, China presents enormous opportunities for UK exporters. We very much welcome the latest developments and look forward to working with government to take these negotiations forward."