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EU Ambassador: new partnership framework not on horizon
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15:05, February 16, 2009

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EU Ambassador: Wen's visit re-establishes confidence on partnership

EU Ambassador: Europeans need to know more about modern China

It will take much time for China and EU to establish a new framework for their cooperation for the next 30 years; the investment promotion will be higher on the agenda with the issue of trade balance to be raised again at the second vice-premier level trade dialogue to be held in April, according Serge Abou, EU Ambassador to China.

In the exclusive interview with People's Daily Online after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Europe from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2, Mr. Abou disclosed that "very difficult" issues would have yet to be discussed on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, known as PCA, although much progress had been made on many future articles even before the postponed summit in December last year.

The Economic and Trade Cooperation Agreement signed in 1985 is the only legal basis for bilateral ties between China and the EU. The PCA negotiation was launched in 2007 and the new agreement will cover all fields of the comprehensive partnership which is well beyond trade.

Later in the same year, talks on updating the 1985 agreement were also initiated. Two rounds of talks have been conducted so far. The principles and core contents of the new agreement will be included in PCA. Trade issues in PCA will be part of the Second High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue.

Mr. Abou clarified the recent reports by some Chinese media that the EU would exert pressure on China on the RMB revaluation against euro on the trade issue.

He repeatedly stressed that the foreign exchange rate is a very complicated technical issue which should only be discussed by specialists from the two sides or "at the High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue". But he reiterated EU's position that China should also take euro into account in its monetary policy.

Mr. Abou also reiterated EU's opposition on protectionism. While recognizing that there are "some anxieties in Europe" on job cuts every day, he denied there was "a move of public opinion against free trade".

But he confirmed that the trade imbalance would still be part of the High-level Economic and Trade dialogue. The remedy that the EU wants, said Mr. Abou, is not less China exports to the EU, but more China imports from EU.

EU is China's largest trading partner. According the statistics on the Chinese side, bilateral trade reached 425.58 billion USD, a year-on-year increase of 19.4 percent, 9 percentage points and 6.5 percentage points faster than China's trade with its second and third largest partner, the US and Japan respectively. China held a trade surplus of 160 billion USD with the EU.

Chinese Premier Wen declared in his Europe trip that a purchasing mission would be sent to Europe. "That is a welcome gesture," said Mr. Abou, adding that Europe can offer some "expensive but quality" products, such as products of renewable energy, water treatment, transportation, machinery equipment, etc.

But he warned that some European companies are hesitant about selling hi-tech products to China because they think China should do more on its IPR law enforcement.

While applauding China's 4 trillion yuan economic stimulus plan, he noted, European companies hope to have "a fair share" in public biddings provided by that plan. Premier Wen assured in his Europe visit that China welcomed European companies' participation in the program.

China is also expecting more business opportunities in the EU. Promotion and protection of investment has become one of the new issues in the bilateral economic and trade talks, which were "not contemplated two or three years ago," noted Mr. Abou. The reason, he explained, is China's growing interest in investing in Europe.

The European Union is China's fourth largest source of FDI. In 2008, EU companies made nearly 5 billion USD investment in China. But investment from China to EU is still much smaller than that.

The investment issue became one of the top priority topics for the first time at the first China-EU High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue in April last year.

By People's Daily Online

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