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'New milestone' for China-EU partnership seen

2014-03-31 14:22 China Daily Web Editor: Gu Liping

President Xi Jinping is expected to push an investment agreement forward with Europe during his upcoming visit to the European Union, which will strongly boost the bilateral partnership, senior Chinese diplomats said. [Special coverage]

Yang Yanyi, head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, said China and Europe should aim toward the timely conclusion of the negotiations of the ambitious China-EU Investment Agreement, which will provide a simpler and more secure legal framework to investors from both sides.

"It is also worthwhile and imperative that the two sides launch a joint feasibility study for a China-EU free trade area," Yang said.

Calling Xi's visit "a new milestone in China-EU relations", Yang said it clearly demonstrates the great importance attached to China-EU relations by both parties.

Xi will embark on a three-day visit to Belgium and the EU headquarters in Brussels starting on Sunday. It will be the first visit to the EU institution by a Chinese president since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the EU's predecessor, the European Community, in 1975, and the first visit to Europe by Xi as president.

On Monday, Xi is scheduled to meet with President Herman Van Rompuy of the European Council, President Jose Manuel Barroso of the European Commission, and President Martin Schulz of the European Parliament.

He also will hold talks with Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo on Monday.

Liao Liqiang, Chinese ambassador to Belgium, said Xi's visit to Belgium will offer a good opportunity not only to reflect on past achievements but also to explore new ways to further promote and strengthen China-EU and China-Belgium relationships.

"Ties will be reinforced in several areas, such as technological innovation, energy saving, environmental protection, urbanization and cultural exchanges. Such collaboration holds out the promise of a world that is more attractive, more balanced and more secure," Liao said.

Liao said China and the EU are together presented historic opportunities as they embrace change.

"China and Europe are two major forces that safeguard world peace and promote growth of the two big markets. Bilateral relations, buttressed by their trading ties, will continue to flourish," Liao said.

China has become the largest investment destination for Belgium, and the booming bilateral trade has become the new highlight of the two countries' economic cooperation, he added.

Ties between China and the EU soured last year because of a dispute over the export of Chinese solar panels. However, along with settlement of the issue and a series of investment negotiations, the relationship began to get back on track.

"While irritants will remain, our common and converging interests far outweigh our differences and even disputes," Yang said.

China-EU trade totaled more than $580 billion in 2012, four times what it was a decade ago. The two sides have decided to raise the volume to $1 trillion by 2020.

Last year, the two sides signed the China-EU 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation, which included reinforcing communication and cooperation on finance, industry and information, agriculture, transport and infrastructure, science, technology and innovation, space and aerospace, energy, urbanization, culture, education, youth affairs and facilitation of people-to-people exchanges.

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