Hu's visit to EU will heighten relations

08:38, November 04, 2010      

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President Hu Jintao departs on Thursday for a four-day European visit to consolidate political and economic ties with the EU bloc while further coordinating China's stance with European counterparts ahead of the G20 summit.

President Hu will pay a state visit to France from Thursday to Saturday - his first since Nicolas Sarkozy took office in 2007.

Hu will later travel to Portugal on the far end of the Iberian Peninsula to accelerate ties between China and Southern Europe.

Under a more multilateral agenda, as France is to take the chairmanship of the G20 group of powers in mid-November - and Portugal is to serve as a non-permanent UN Security Council member - the two bilateral visits are also expected to have a global impact, according to experts.

While France became the first major Western power to establish diplomatic ties with China, and has long been a pioneer in building military and nuclear cooperation with China, Beijing and Paris have shared a common, independent diplomatic path.

Yet ties between China and France had been tense in recent years following a number of diplomatic incidents.

A visit by Sarkozy to Beijing in April has managed to "turn a new page" and the countries now talk of enjoying a "global partnership".

Hu Jintao recently told the pro-government French newspaper Le Figaro that China wants to go beyond simple commercial and investment issues to create a "partnership of equals" with Paris.

This will involve "new partnerships in energy, the environment, information technology, high-end industry, new energy sources and new materials," Hu said.

Feng Zhongping, director of the Institute of European Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said better coordination with France, an influential EU member - in addition to its pending G20 chairmanship - will certainly help China on the world arena.

While France views China as a huge potential market for its high-tech industry, Paris also sees Beijing as a major world player whose support it clearly needs for a better G20 chairmanship, say experts.

Chinese Ambassador to France Kong Quan told reporters on Monday that drastic changes in global politics and the economy have made France and China realize the importance of reinforcing mutual understanding and communication - as well as the necessity for deeper cooperation to safeguard world peace and development as well as the long-term interests of their respective countries.

Hu and Sarkozy are expected to sign a joint declaration on bilateral ties, and witness the signing of a historically big trade bill that includes more than 100 Airbus planes and nuclear plant projects, diplomatic sources close with the visit told China Daily.

As for Portugal, the visit by Hu on Sunday will help consolidate relations with the Southern European region.

Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva told the Xinhua News Agency in a recent interview that Hu's forthcoming state visit to Lisbon is of great significance to further consolidation of the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership

President Silva said that, on top of the remarkable progress made in the past 35 years of diplomatic ties, great potential still exists for the two countries to further realize their cooperation - in political, diplomatic, economic and other areas.

Portugal will serve as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2012 and 2013, which means Lisbon and Beijing will maintain closer contact to explore ways to handle global challenges, he said.

Meanwhile, according to Cui Hongjian, a scholar in EU studies at the China Institute of International Studies, Portugal could be an ideal economic partner for China as the latter is making headway to the European market.

A large Chinese business delegation will accompany Hu to Portugal. A series of trade deals will also likely be signed in Lisbon which would greatly help Portugal's sluggish economy, said diplomats.

Xinhua and AFP contributed to this story.

By Wu Jiao, China Daily


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