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Trip to Europe elevates relations

2013-05-23 09:05 China Daily     Web Editor: Sun Tian comment

Premier Li Keqiang's visits to Switzerland and Germany show the importance that China's new leadership attaches to relations with Europe, observers said.

"Europe and China are indeed more and more dependent on each other for their current and future development," Nicola Casarini, research fellow at the EU Institute for Security Studies, told China Daily.

"The euro crisis and China's slower-than-expected growth should lead the two sides to stress that the two have much to gain by jointly addressing their respective domestic challenges," he added.

Li is to pay official visits to Switzerland and Germany from May 24 to 27, his first European trip as China's new head of government.

As an important diplomatic tour by the new Chinese leadership, the trip to Europe by Li has sparked intense interest in Europe.

Jonas Parello-Plesner, senior policy fellow of European Council on Foreign Relations, said: "I think Li wants to restart good relations with the EU. The euro crisis has been an ongoing concern for China both because of the drop in Chinese exports to Europe it has entailed and the financial instability it has meant."

Li is likely to plead for an open market approach to the crisis and will probably address the EU's big pending case on Chinese-produced solar panels, said Parello-Plesner.

When it comes to Li's two European destinations, Yao Shujie, head of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at University of Nottingham in the UK, noted, "Both are China's friendly trade and investment partners with high technological content."

Casarini said: "Switzerland is important this time because of the Free Trade Agreement to be signed, I think. Chinese leaders hope that the signing of an FTA with Iceland and Switzerland will create momentum for opening negotiations on an FTA with the EU."

The most recent China-Switzerland FTA negotiations took place from May 9 to May 11 in Bern, the Swiss capital.

If the FTA with Switzerland is signed, Casarini said, it would be important since the country is much bigger than Iceland, producing a wide array of products and services.

"The successful closing of negotiations with Bern could be used as a template for an eventual FTA with the EU," Casarini added.

 Premier Li Keqiang's First Overseas Trip

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