LONDON - Prime Minister David Cameron leads a heavyweight group of British politicians and business chiefs on a visit to China this week which will focus squarely on expanding trade ties with the world's second largest economy.
Cameron, who took office in May, leaves London on Monday for talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao as he stops in Beijing en route to the G20 summit in South Korea when China's role in the global economy will be centre stage.
Featuring more than 40 business leaders and four of Cameron's senior ministers from his Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, it is the biggest such delegation Britain has ever sent to China.
"This is a vitally important trade mission. Our message is simple: Britain is now open for business, has a very business-friendly government, and wants to have a much, much stronger relationship with China," Cameron said.
"I'm delighted we've got such a wide range of institutions and businesses coming with us. This visit will mark another step to making Britain the successful, open, trading and pro-business country that I want it to be."
Finance Minister George Osborne and Business Secretary Vince Cable arrived in Beijing over the weekend.
The visit mirrors a trip to India earlier this year when Cameron courted business there and fits with the Conservative leader's pledge to give a greater commercial edge to diplomacy.
The British government has announced sharp spending cuts and businesses are looking to overseas demand to help fill their order books. Britain seeks to woo inward investment.
Trade between Britain and China is increasing, totalling more than $35 billion in the first nine months of the year, up by 30 percent on the previous year.
However, officials note that Britain still does more business with its small neighbour Ireland than it does with Brazil, Russia, India and China combined.