In this May 7, 2009 file photo, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan (L) shakes hands with European Union Commissioner for Trade Catherine Ashton prior to the Second China-EU High Level Economic and Trade Dialog at the EU headquarters in Brussels. [Xinhua]
BRUSSELS: European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton started a week-long trip to China on Sunday, her first one to the country since she assumed office last October.
Bilateral trade and investment have been affected by the ongoing global financial crisis, and the EU's frequent use of anti-dumping measures against Chinese products have incurred criticism from Beijing.
Under such circumstances, Ashton's visit is viewed as a golden opportunity for the two trading powers to refresh their economic ties in the face of the economic downturn.
Follow-up to High-level Dialogue
Ashton's visit to China is "to further discussions on trade and investment issues in her capacity as co-chair of the EU-China High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue (HED)," the European Commission said in a press release ahead of her visit.
In May, Ashton and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan held talks in Brussels as co-chairs of HED, which is designed to set the strategic direction for bilateral economic relationship and identify challenges and opportunities.
Ashton's trip was explained as a chance for the commissioner to follow on the high-level economic dialogue.
The commission said talks in Beijing will continue in the same spirit as in the dialogue in Brussels, focusing on the common goal of achieving a deal in the Doha Round of world trade talks, as well as identifying opportunities for further bilateral trade and investment.
At HED, both sides agreed they should boost trade and investment in the face of the current international financial crisis.
Figures recently released by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce showed that due to dwindling demand amid the crisis, trade and investment between China and the EU slumped in the first half of this year, with trade volume falling 20.9 percent year on year and the value of the EU's investment in China declining 2 percent.
Various Issues On Agenda
Ashton traveled to Beijing after she attended a ministerial-level meeting aimed at reviving the Doha Round in India.
At the meeting, all key members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), including the EU and China, reached a consensus to restart negotiations on the long-stalled Doha Round later this month and reaffirmed the target of achieving a deal by the end of next year.
Putting the conclusion of Doha Round as a top priority during her term, Ashton wants to build on the momentum and seek common ground with China.
"The EU and China share common goals in trade and investment, including for the Doha Round and in our bilateral relationship," she said.