PHILIP Hammond risks a new Cabinet rift by pushing for Britain to fully endorse China’s “Belt and Road” global investment drive later this month.
The Sun can reveal the Chancellor is preparing to visit Beijing on April 25-27 for a summit on China’s controversial programme – which has seen it invest billions in Asia, Africa and South America.
AFP Philip Hammond could back China’s global investment drive
And sources claim he wants Britain to cash in on the “wealth of opportunity” offered by China’s burgeoning economy.
It comes after a previous visit by Philip Hammond in February was cancelled because Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said he planned to send a warship to the South China Sea.
China’s Belt and Road plan has been fiercely opposed by US President Donald Trump amid concerns it’s designed to create a modern day Silk Road to push the country’s global dominance.
Beijing has invested in everything from new ports in Sri Lanka, rail links in Malaysia and hydroelectric dams in Argentina with state-backed companies picking up most of the work.
Italy sparked uproar last month in Brussels by going it alone in signing huge deals under which Beijing will invest in its ports in exchange for opening up to Italian fruit exports.
Theresa May notably refused to publicly endorse Belt and Road on a trip to China last year amid concerns it falls short of international standards.
But Liam Fox’s trade department is also keen to for British banks and companies to take part as a way of building post-Brexit relationships.
And Standard Chartered bank has offered £1.2billion of finance for Belt and Road projects.
A Whitehall source told The Sun: “As the world’s largest economy China offers a wealth of opportunity to the UK and we must be ready to capitalise on it for our businesses and our economy.
“We’re maintaining our own lines of access to the Chinese government so we can drive forward our prosperity not doing it through the EU.”
Ex-PM David Cameron and George Osborne brushed aside human rights concerns about China in pursuit of a “golden era” in bilateral relations.
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British exports to China have grown 60 per cent since 2010.
But an influential Commons Committee last week panned the government for putting trade with China above vital issues of national security and human rights.
A Treasury spokeswoman said: “We have received a request to attend the Belt and Road Forum in China and are carefully considering it. We’ll respond shortly.”
Getty – Pool David Cameron built close ties with China’s president Xi Jinping
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