Beijing lends a hand to Europe

Updated: 2012-02-15 09:23

By Ding Qingfen and Cheng Guangjin (China Daily)

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Premier offers help but says only eurozone can solve its debt crisis

BEIJING - China is ready to help Europe deal with its debt problems, Premier Wen Jiabao said on Tuesday.

But Europe must solve its own crisis and China expects the eurozone to send clear and positive signals to the world that it can tackle the situation, Wen said.

"China's willingness to support the EU in dealing with its debt problems is sincere and resolute," Wen said at a joint news conference held in Beijing with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

"China has been willing, and will continue to be willing, to join hands with the EU for mutual benefit, despite the fast-changing global economic situation," Wen said.

He said at a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week that China would consider getting more involved in solving Europe's debt woes, especially through the European Stability Mechanism and the European Financial Stability Facility.

However, Wen pointed out Europe cannot depend too heavily on China and its own efforts are crucial.

"The debt crisis relies fundamentally on the efforts made by the EU itself. We especially expect the debt-stricken nations, according to their own situations, to strengthen fiscal consolidation, reduce their deficits and lower their debt risks," Wen said.

Van Rompuy said during the news conference that he welcomed China's interest in the eurozone.

"In the past, China has shown, in a concrete way, its interest in the eurozone by investing in sovereign bonds of individual countries and by investing in European stability instruments," Van Rompuy said.

But "it's up to China to make its own decisions in contributing to the stability of the eurozone", he said.

During the past few days, both officials and entrepreneurs have expressed their concerns about European government bonds and progress in solving European debt problems.

The European sovereign debt crisis is at a "critical juncture", and European leaders must take proactive measures, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin.

Speaking at a forum on Monday, Lou Jiwei, chairman of China Investment Corp, China's sovereign wealth fund, said it's difficult for long-term investors, including his company, to buy European government debt, and investment opportunities are more likely in infrastructure and industrial projects.

Economic ties

Barroso said that China and the EU should strengthen cooperation, especially during this time of crisis.

The summit, which was postponed from December, focused on European debt issues, economic and trade ties and international affairs.

China and the EU have reached consensus on major economic aspects, Wen said.

These include promoting two-way investment and expanding trade. They also include strengthening cooperation in scientific research, innovation, energy and environmental protection and deepening cooperation in urbanization between the two nations, Wen said.

China and the EU will start negotiations on a series of issues this year. One of the most important issues is initiating talks on China-EU investment agreements.

Barroso also suggested that China provide a better business environment and more openness for European companies doing business in China.

Wen said the success of European companies showed opportunity in the market.

"European companies have been reaping sustainable profits and many have plans to boost investment, which indicates China is a market full of opportunities and dynamism," Wen said.

The EU is the largest trade partner for China and a major source of technology transfers to China.

Since 2008, China has sent more than 30 trade and investment promotion delegations to the EU, leading to agreements worth $150 billion.

Syrian issue

Referring to recent developments in Syria, Wen said "what is most urgent and pressing" is to "prevent war and chaos" so that the Syrian people will be free from even greater suffering.

"China will absolutely not harbor any party," Wen said.

Some countries criticized China for blocking a draft United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria.