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Trip to advance EU products
By Dai Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-27 08:56

Franz Fischler, European Union agricultural chief, attempted to introduce Europe's tasty treats to China on Friday.

The EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, listed favorite European foods, including "red wine from the gentle hills of Italy, olive oil from a hundred-year-old olive grove in Spain, milk products from the green pastures of Germany, Danish ham and Finnish cheese."

It is the first time an EU commissioner promoted products in China. He is accompanied by 25 business executives from 13 member states representing important companies.

They include Belgian giant beverage company Interbrew, the Danish Bacon and Meat Council, Greek fruit and olive firm Kronos, and Italian olive oil company Colavita.

"We are here to find ways to fully utilize the huge farm trade potential China and EU have," Fischler said.

In the past 25 years, EU-China trade has increased to reach over 129 billion euros (US$158 billion) in 2003. But with 1.3 billion potential consumers and 9 per cent annual economic growth, the landscape is rich with opportunities for food manufacturers.

Pierre Jean Everaert, chairman of Interbrew, said executives believed there are many consumers who can afford European foods, especially cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

Food businesses expect to make products for China in China, he said.

"For the first step, we will build the market by exports, and then look for partners in local manufacturing," said Everaert.

"The ability of EU agriculture to produce large quantities of excellent food products, and the diversity and quality of those products, means that the EU has become a major exporter of many foodstuffs, being the second biggest global exporter with agricultural exports worth 61 billion euros (US$75 billion) in 2002," said Fischler.

The EU is currently the world's biggest producer of wine and olive oil - with 65 per cent and 80 per cent of production respectively. With 70 per cent of the global market share, it is also the largest exporter of wine. It is becoming a major player in other markets as well, such as horticultural and dairy products, meats, eggs and sugar.

China is the second most important trading partner for the EU after the United States. As a developing country, China expected EU to cut its subsidies on farm produce, while EU asked China to lower its trade barriers on farm produce.

Fischler said EU has carried out a reform which will lead to a reduction of trade distorting farm support in the EU by 70 per cent.

The World Trade Organization resumed its talks on agriculture on Monday and expected to gather new momentum at the Doha Agenda Development round.

Fischler urged China to take a comparatively small down payment during the Doha Round to cash in on the enormous benefits of free farm trade.

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