Xi to visit Europe later this month

Updated: 2014-03-09 07:50

By Zhao Shengnan(China Daily)

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Xi to visit Europe later this month

President Xi Jinping will make his first trip as head of state to Europe - "a priority on China's diplomatic agenda this year" - later in March to "open a new chapter" in Sino-European relations, China's top diplomat said on Saturday.

Observers said Xi's visit underscores Beijing's traditional attention to the world's largest economy, and is expected to yield more opportunities for cooperation by linking China's ongoing reform with Europe's economic recovery.

"'Cooperation' is the key word in relations between China and Europe, and both sides will work to align their respective developmental strategies during Xi's visit," Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

"This is especially the case when China's development-model transition gains momentum, and has embarked on comprehensive and in-depth reforms," Wang said at a news conference of the China's annual parliamentary session.

Wang highlighted priorities such as science and technological innovation, energy and environmental conservation, a new type of urbanization, connectivity, and people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

Wang did not elaborate on the exact date in March Xi will visit Europe and where the president will go. The European Union announced in January that Xi would visit its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, which would make Xi the first Chinese president to do so.

Wang called for ramping up negotiations on a Sino-EU investment agreement, with a view to future free trade arrangements between China and Europe. In November's China-EU summit, both sides unveiled the China-Europe 2020 plan, a road map for China-Europe cooperation for the rest of the decade; began negotiations on a free trade agreement; and set a goal of $1 trillion in trade by 2020.

Zhao Jinjun, former Chinese ambassador to France, said both sides are keen on deepening cooperation as well as pushing the investment and free-trade agreements forward.

"China can learn from Europe's leading experience in fields such as science and technology, while China's fast-paced economy could contribute to the bloc's recovering but still-sluggish economy," he said.

A free trade deal would increase both sides' interdependence and potentially reduce the risk of new trade disputes, he said.

"Although such disputes are inevitable due to increasingly larger trade, neither side will ever let those disputes affect the movement toward greater cooperation," Zhao added.

The EU is China's most important trading partner, and in Europe, China is second only to the United States in terms of trade. In 2012, Sino-EU bilateral trade was more than $546 billion.

The two sides reached an agreement last year over the price of Chinese solar panels sold in the EU, ending a row over the issue.

Jia Xiudong, a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, said there are no fundamental conflicts of interest between China and Europe, but Europe needs to resort less to trade protectionism.

Xinhua contributed to this story.


(China Daily 03/09/2014 page4)