Beijing, Jan 18: Three days after a landmark first visit to China by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his British counterpart Gordon Brown arrived in Beijing on Friday on his maiden visit as prime minister, with the objective of tackling climate change and boosting two-way trade and investment at the top of his agenda.
Brown's two-day trip is a first by a European leader this year to China, and has been billed by officials in London and Beijing as being of vital importance to the strengthening of ties between the two countries. He will spend Sunday and Monday in India on his return journey. Brown's flight to Beijing was briefly held up at London's Heathrow Airport after a British Airways jet crash landed short of the runway Thursday, causing delays at the world's busiest international airport.
Brown is being accompanied by a party of around 30 journalists, businessmen and personalities, including Virgin chief Richard Branson and British Olympic athlete Kelly Holmes.
Soon after his arrival, Brown predicted that "tens of thousands" of British jobs would be created by boosting trade with China.
Brown and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao agreed to increase trade between both countries by 50 percent by 2010.
According to The News and the BBC, Brown said the relationship between London and Beijing was "absolutely crucial" to the success of the global economy as a whole.
Speaking to reporters after talks in Beijing the two leaders confirmed that they had agreed a joint target of increasing two-way trade to 60-billion dollars over the next two years.
Brown said he wanted 100 new Chinese companies to invest in the UK by 2010.
"It's true we are able to sell to China not just financial and business services and environmental technologies, but also a whole range of British brands that are now becoming very popular among the rising number of Chinese consumers. We said we want Britain to be the number one destination of choice for Chinese business as it invests in the rest of the world," Brown said.
During his three-day trip, Brown will also discuss preparations for this summer's Beijing Olympics.
The Chinese government has said the PM's trip is intended to bring a "new vitality" to relations.
Trade between China and the UK was worth an estimated 40 billion dollars last year.
British officials said the UK economy, with its strength in the service sector, was well placed to complement China's dynamic manufacturing boom.
Other senior businessmen travelling with the prime minister include Shell chairman Jorma Ollila and Vodafone chief executive Arun Sarin.
Human rights activists called on Mr Brown not to shy away from discussing difficult issues with the Chinese government. Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, said: "As the Beijing Olympics approaches, China will be increasingly sensitive to its reputation in other countries. Gordon Brown must make clear that Britain does not approve of its record on human rights. Basic values like justice and free speech are held dear by the British people and our prime minister must reflect their importance."
In their talks on the first day of Brown's three-day visit, the two leaders also discussed the environment and the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.
They called for an immediate ceasefire and a lasting peace settlement. After the meeting, Brown also called for 100 new educational partnerships between China and the UK.
Brown will later visit Shanghai where he is expected to view plans for a developing an "eco-city" - having promised similar projects for the UK.
China is both one of the world's leading polluters and one of the most acute potential sufferers of the effects of global warming.