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UPDATED: 14:25, May 06, 2004
China's premier raises proposal for promoting ties with Belgium
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Photo:Chinese Premier and Belgian PM
Chinese Premier and Belgian PM
Visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao raised a four-point proposal on Wednesday for promoting Sino-Belgian relations.

Wen made the proposal when meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt in Brussels Wednesday, according to a press release from the Chinese delegation.

Wen was quoted by the release as saying China attaches great importance to developing relations with Belgium, regards Belgium as its trustworthy partner and is willing to push the relations to a new high.

To achieve new progress in the two countries' ties, Premier Wenput forward a four-point proposal:

-- To maintain high-level exchanges of visits to increase mutual understanding;

-- To strengthen dialogue and consultation and expand cooperation, particularly on bilateral and multilateral issues;

-- To establish a long-term and stable economic and trade partnership between the two countries. China welcomes Belgian businesses to invest in agriculture, environmental protection, andthe high-tech and energy sectors in China; and

-- To increase cooperation in other fields such as education, science and technology and health.

Photo:China, Belgium sign joint declaration
China, Belgium sign joint declaration
Wen is the first foreign head of government to visit the EU headquarters after the organization's latest, also largest, enlargement on May 1, in which 10 countries were admitted to the bloc, increasing its number of members to 25.

During his talks with Verhofstadt, Wen said the enlargement reflects the will of the European people for a more powerful Europe and more integration.

A powerful and stable EU will constructively influence international affairs, Wen said.

On his part, Verhofstadt said China and Belgium are enjoying a good relationship, which has seen significant progress these years.

Belgium hopes to enhance political dialogue, and expand economic and trade cooperation with China, he said, adding that his country will encourage small- and medium-sized businesses to do business in China.

Meanwhile, Verhofstadt stressed that his government sticks to the one-China policy, supports an early lifting of the EU ban on arms sales to China and backs the recognition of China's full market economy status.

Following their talks, Wen and Verhofstadt signed a joint declaration on reinforcing political dialogue. In the document, the two sides reiterated their political will to further activate and enrich bilateral cooperation in a wide range of fields.

The declaration laid out various approaches for enhancing the dialogue.

The two sides agreed that foreign ministers or other cabinet ministers of the two countries should exchange visits at least once a year.

Meetings will be arranged between Chinese and Belgian foreign ministers on occasions like the UN General Assembly.

The two sides also agreed to keep the momentum of high-level exchanges of visits including meetings between heads of state or government of the two countries.

In addition, the two sides signed the Articles of Association of China-Belgium Equity Investment Fund (AACBEIF), a fund aimed atencouraging small- and medium-sized Belgian firms to invest in China.

Speaking at a joint press conference following the talks, Wen said his visit to Belgium marks three "firsts."

This is his first visit to Belgium since taking office as Chinese premier; the joint declaration on reinforcing political dialogue is the first such document China has signed with a foreign country; and the AACBEIF is also the first such articles China has ever signed with a foreign country.

Meanwhile, the premier also expressed the hope for expanding bilateral trade, saying that although trade between China and Belgium hit 6.7 billion US dollars last year, there is still room for development because Belgium's trade with China is merely 5 percent of the European country's total.

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