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Li's visit to Europe, an important part of China's all-round diplomacy

(People's Daily Online)

17:03, May 24, 2013

Edited and translated by Liang Jun, People's Daily Online

From Friday, Chinese premier Li Keqiang begins visit to Switzerland and Germany. What does Premier Li's visit mean and what can we expect?

In the view of former Chinese ambassador to Germany Mei Zhaorong, Li's European tour is an important part of China's all-round diplomacy in the new period. It is a complement to President Xi's tour to Russia and Africa in March and the upcoming visit to America. China's overall diplomatic layout and comprehensive foreign policy have been gradually formed.

Although Europe is still in deep debt crisis, it is still an important force for China to work with and rely on in the international community. Despite differences in social systems and concept, both China and Europe actively advocate and promote world multi-polarization, and safeguard world peace.

They also need each other. Europe needs China, world's largest market, to help it go out from the debt crisis and China, in economic transition and upgrading, also needs European high technology and advanced concepts.

Why dose China choose Switzerland and Germany as Premier Li's first trip to Europe? Because Switzerland and China have close cooperation in the financial fields; Germany is the “leader” of the E.U. countries and also the key country for China to develop relations with Europe, according to Ding Yuanhong, former Chinese ambassador to the EU. .

Substantial progress in FTA talks is the most anticipated thing during Premier Li's visit to Switzerland. In 2010, both sides decided to launch FTA negotiations during the then Vice Premier Li Keqiang's tour to Switzerland. If this visit can help reach a final agreement on free trade, it will be the first FTA between China and a country on European continent.

Although China has signed FTA with Iceland, FTA between China and Switzerland will be of more practical significance and will be a major breakthrough in China's foreign cooperation, said Ding Chun, director of the Center of European Studies at Fudan University.

China has become Switzerland's largest trade partner in Asia and Switzerland is China's seventh biggest trade partner in Europe and sixth largest source of foreign investment. So the establishment of the free trade zone will benefit both sides greatly.

Analysts believe Swiss banks and financial industry will gain more convenience in investment to China. While for China, because the E.U. countries set the capital and trade limits on China, it can bypass or lower trade barriers, via Swiss, to expand its European market.

Germany is the last leg of Premier Li's maiden foreign tour and also the only one leg in E.U. countries, which highlights the importance of Germany in China- E.U. ties.

Germany is China's largest economic partner in Europe and the biggest source of foreign investment and technology introduction as well as an important investment destination. During Premier Li's visit, the two countries will sign a series of cooperation agreements covering manufacturing, finance, investment and urbanization fields. Enterprises from both countries will also ink cooperative deals related to auto machinery, chemical and shipping industries.

Read the Chinese version: 李克强访欧,全方位外交重要一环

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