The European Union has described British Prime Minister David Cameron’s bid for a free trade deal between China and the 28-nation bloc as “premature.”
“We believe that it is premature at this stage to discuss a free trade agreement with China,” said Alexandre Polack, a spokesman for the EU executive, on Monday.
The spokesman added that the EU and China are already working on a possible investment deal and should focus on that for now.
The European Commission, which is opposed to the trade deal, says the accord risks flooding the EU with cheap Chinese imports.
On the same day, after a meeting with the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Cameron stated that “I’ve said to Premier Li that I will champion an EU-China trade deal with as much determination as I’m championing the EU-US trade deal.”
Cameron, along with a delegation of around 100 business people, flew into china on Monday for a three-day visit.
“I now want to set a new long-term goal of an ambitious and comprehensive EU-China Free Trade Agreement,” Chinese weekly news magazine Caixin cited Cameron as saying.
This comes as Britons are divided on whether or not the UK should remain as a member state of the European Union.
Cameron has pledged to hold an in-out vote on the UK’s membership of the EU during the early part of the next parliament, by the end of 2017 at the latest, if his Conservative party wins the 2015 general election.
On November 29, the public vote on Britain’s EU membership moved a step closer after members of the House of Commons supported a bill calling for a referendum.
The legislation for a referendum by the end of 2017 passed through the lower chamber of the British parliament despite efforts by opposition Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats to delay its passage.
The bill has been strongly supported by Tory leader Cameron.
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband, however, have repeatedly warned over plans to hold an in-out referendum, saying they are wrong and damaging to the UK’s national interests.
Former British Prime Minister Sir John Major has said that Britain will pay a “severe price” should it decide to leave the 28-nation-bloc.
Major said the UK’s departure from the EU could cost Britain billions of pounds, and would leave the country internationally isolated.
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