Former British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had resigned as an MP and stepped back from the political life last year following the Brexit referendum, is to take on a new role as the head of a government-backed body for the promotion of UK-China investment ties. Cameron will take charge of a $1 billion fund to improve ports, roads and rail networks between China and its trading partners as part of the wider Belt and Road Initiative, according to the BBC. The move follows a two-day visit this week to China by UK Chancellor Philip Hammond, who said the initiative would create jobs and boost trade links. “The UK is one of the world’s largest and most dynamic economies. 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,” said Hammond. “As we move to a new phase in cooperation between our two great countries, we will be establishing an even deeper trade and investment relationship, helping British businesses and entrepreneurs to seize the opportunities now in front of us as we build an economy fit for the future,” he said on the sidelines of the Economic and Financial Dialogue (EFD) in Beijing.
The Belt and Road Initiative was first unveiled by China in 2013 and this year Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged nearly $124 billion for the scheme. The Chinese government has said it would invest tens of billions of dollars as part of an ambitious economic plan to rebuild ports, roads and rail networks linking China and its trading partners. Xi’s plan is to develop ancient trade routes through China and Europe to “make it easier” for the world to trade with China.
Cameron had famously been seen in pictures enjoying a drink with Xi Jinping during his state visit to the UK in 2015 and much had been written about the rapport between the two leaders at the time. The Plough at Cadsden, a few minutes away from the prime ministerial countryside retreat of Chequers, was the pub where the pair tucked into a basket of traditional English fish and chips and washed it down with a pint of ale. The pub has since been reportedly sold to Chinese investors after it turned into a tourist hotspot for visitors from the country.
While details of Cameron new role are yet to be unveiled, the Hammond-led business delegation to China this week has been described by the UK government as a new phase in the “golden era for UK-China relations”. “China is one of our largest trading partners and as two of the world’s leading economies it is vital that we work closely together to address global challenges and seize the future economic opportunities,” said Greg Clark, UK business and energy minister, who accompanied the Chancellor on the visit. There are also reports of both sides agreeing to accelerate preparations for a London-Shanghai stock exchange connect programme.