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EU-China: EU Trade Commissioner to visit China

EU-China: EU Trade Commissioner to visit China 23- 26 February

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson will travel to Beijing today for a four day visit to the People’s Republic of China. During the visit, which is the Commissioner’s fist official visit to this country, the Commissioner will meet with his Chinese counterpart, Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai. He will also meet Vice Premier Wu Yi and other senior officials. On February 24 he will deliver a speech on EU-China relations and responsibilities in a global economy at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

Speaking before his departure Commissioner Mandelson said: “I see no greater strategic challenge for Europe than to understand the dramatic rise of China and to forge ties with it.”

Commissioner Mandelson’s visit is intended to stress the need to create a new strategic partnership between the EU and China, based on discussion and negotiation on a wide range of issues both economic and political. He will emphasise that the success of such a partnership depends on China taking up the responsibilities that accompany its new wealth and power. Mr Mandelson said: “I believe that Europeans need to have a clearer sense that China is assuming the responsibilities that go with its new global trading and political power. Not least, China has an overwhelming interest in strengthening a rules-based trading system.”

Europe is China’s largest trading partner and China is Europe’s second largest trading partner. China has enormous further potential as a market for European companies. At the EU-China summit last December, leaders agreed to actively explore the feasibility of a new framework agreement covering the EU's relations with China. The European Commission believes that among other things this should include ambitious provisions on trade and Investment.

By giving China a stake in the global trading system, China’s WTO membership in 2001 has created the framework for constructive global engagement. The EU will seek to engage with China across the full range of its new global responsibilities; from respecting WTO standards to managing equitable access to global energy resources.

With the move to quota-free trade in textiles on 1 January 2005, China has a key role to play in ensuring that its textiles exports grow at a reasonable rate. Commissioner Mandelson said: “We can all benefit from textiles liberalisation, but some moderation and caution in the rate of growth of Chinese exports will help to ensure harmonious adjustment to the new global trading environment.” Along with the EU, China is already participating in a joint monitoring exercise to closely gauge changing levels of global textile exports.

China is also a key player in the ongoing Doha Round of international trade talks. The European Commission has welcomed China’s offer to host a mini-ministerial meeting in June. Coming only months before the Hong Kong WTO ministerial in December, this meeting will need to be an important staging post.

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