CHINA'S Foreign Minister, Qian Qichen, will meet British minister Alistair Goodlad during his Beijing visit which begins tomorrow, in a further sign of improving Sino-British relations.
Mr Qian will hold talks with Mr Goodlad on Friday afternoon, Chinese and British officials confirmed yesterday.
Mr Goodlad, the British minister with special responsibility for Hong Kong, will also meet his Chinese counterpart, Vice-Foreign Minister Jiang Enzhu, the Director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Lu Ping, and officials from the Chinese Trade Ministry, the officials said.
Chinese officials have expressed cautious optimism that Mr Goodlad's talks will yield positive results and help to set Sino-British relations back on a more favourable course.
However, they have also stated that any positive results will largely depend on whether or not Mr Goodlad demonstrates a ''more co-operative attitude'' than has been displayed by Britain over the last two years.
In London, Mr Goodlad said China should have no fears over the remaining years of British administration in Hong Kong.
''I believe we share the determination to effect the transfer of sovereignty in a way that is conducive to the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong and I am determined that we should succeed.'' Mr Goodlad indicated he may issue an invitation for a Chinese team to visit Britain in the near future saying: ''If I deliver any invitations they will be in Beijing and not through the press.'' It is expected that Mr Goodlad will try to avoid a confrontation over such sensitive issues as Governor Chris Patten's political reform measures and focus on wider areas of co-operation.
Britain is anxious to expand its investment and trade with the mainland, especially after the billion-dollar contracts signed with Germany, Austria and France in the past few weeks.
Britain's exports to China increased by 72 per cent last year compared with 1992 but Britain still had a GBP587 million (HK$7 billion) trade deficit with the mainland at the end of 1993.
Mr Goodlad denied Britain was in danger of slipping out of favour compared with Germany and France.
''I think we are pretty well and truly on the bandwagon. In terms of investment in China we lead Europe,'' he said.
Mr Goodlad will be hoping improved political relations might eventually pave the way for that deficit to be reduced.
Hong Kong issues will not be ignored, however, and Mr Goodlad is expected to hold talks with Mr Lu, focusing primarily on the progress of the Joint Liaison Group (JLG) and the airport financing arrangements.
After two days of talks in Beijing, Mr Goodlad will leave for Shanghai and Guangzhou on Saturday and will arrive in Hong Kong for talks with Mr Patten next Wednesday.
Mr Goodlad stressed the need for progress on the airport financing agreement, and in the JLG where he stressed the importance of a decision on Container Terminal 9.