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China Premier flies to UK with $30B shopping list

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will arrive in London on Monday evening for talks on billion-dollar trade deals, and could push for the easing of visa requirements for high-spending Chinese tourists.

Over 200 senior politicians and business leaders are expected to accompany Li on the four-day trip, which will see him meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron—and even Queen Elizabeth II.

The two sides will mull deals relating to energy, investment and education, and over 40 agreements may be struck, according to the Chinese embassy, amounting to a record-setting $30 billion or more.

Read MoreChina to meet this year's 7.5% growth target: Premier Li

China's Premier Li Keqiang.
Getty Images
China's Premier Li Keqiang.

The visit will be the first by Li since taking power in 2013, as well as the first by any Chinese leader in the last three years. Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming told reporters Friday that the visit had a "unique significance" in "promoting political mutual trust, revving up partnership on growth, reform and cooperation, and advancing sound and steady bilateral relations on a higher level".

Rocky relationship?

But the visit is perhaps most important to the U.K., which has a rocky relationship with the world's second-biggest economy, as it battles to become a center for Chinese foreign investment.

Although tensions have thawed since Cameron met with the Dalai Lama in 2012, despite Beijing's objections, relations became strained again this April when the U.K. Foreign Office published a report criticizing China's human rights record.

Li's visit will include extensive talks with Cameron and other senior politicians. He and his wife will also meet the Queen—an encounter which is reported to have been a condition of Li coming.

Topics up for discussion are likely to include visa provisions for Chinese tourists and business people. Last week, Liu called on the U.K. to ease visa applications for Chinese visitors, saying difficulties in entering the country were deterring investors.

However, the U.K. government says that 96 percent of Chinese nationals who applied for a U.K. visa received one in 2013. Of 373,475 U.K. visas issued last year, 291,919 were to Chinese.

Read MoreMore Chinese tourists choosing Taiwan over Hong Kong

Clearing bank

The Premier's visit comes after a deal was struck in March to set up a renminbi clearing bank—one that can process yuan-denominated checks for clients, regardless of the origin of the check—in London. This would be the first outside of Asia and would mean that the U.K. no longer needs to rely on Hong Kong establishments for renminbi clearing services.

The U.K. was also the first G-7 country to establish a foreign exchange swap line—an agreement to exchange one currency for another at a set rate at a certain time in the future — with the People's Bank of China.

Read MoreYuan's surprise reversal: where to next?

However, ahead of his visit, Liu warned that some Chinese people now regarded relations with France and Germany as more important than with Britain.

Kit Juckes, head of currency strategy at Societe Generale in London, told CNBC that such statements were unlikely to negatively affect proposals like the renminbi clearing bank.

"Renminbi clearing will trundle along merrily…It is not going to be an important currency unless it trades internationally," he said.

"I think politicians get terribly excited about things like in what order countries are named. It is true that the U.K. is not as important an economy as Germany, and sure, if we left the European Union, we would be even less important. But if you want be in foreign exchange trading, than the U.K. is the biggest foreign trading hub in the world."

Last year, the U.K. was China's third largest source of imports, behind Germany and France. China was the U.K.'s seventh largest market for exports.

According to the most recent official statistics, the U.K. exported £1.2 billion worth of goods to China in March 2014, an 18 percent rise on March 2013. In the same month, the U.K. imported £3.6 bililon of goods from China, 30 percent higher than in March 2013.

—By CNBC's Katy Barnato

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