EU, China to focus on trade, economy at summit

18th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

The summit, to be held in Prague, was originally set for last December but China called it off in protest at a meeting between Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Poland.

Brussels -- EU and Chinese leaders are on Wednesday to steer clear of tough issues at a fence-mending summit focused on trade and the economic crisis after Beijing cancelled their last meeting over the Dalai Lama.

The summit, to be held in Prague, was originally set for last December but China called it off in protest at a meeting between Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Poland.

France held the rotating presidency of the 27-nation European Union at that time until Paris handed the baton over to the Czech Republic at the start of the year.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus will host China Premier Wen Jiabao at Prague Castle along with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

"It's certainly a fence-mending summit and the problem is that it is only a fence-mending summit," said analyst John Fox with the European Council on Foreign Relations, lamenting that tough political issues and the environment are on the backburner.

"The best thing that can happen is that the summit goes ahead and that it won't be prevented by the Chinese being angry at Czech politicians making statements on Taiwan, or Tibet or the Dalai Lama," he added.

He noted that the Czech republic's outspoken and euroskeptic president had a propensity for making "wild remarks".

The director of the Center for European Studies at the University of Fudan in Shanghai, Ding Chun, said that Europe and China would see eye-to-eye on tackling the financial crisis and the new balance of powers to emerge from it.

"Both sides hope to see a multi-polar structure of the world. They hope to reform the international finance system and they want to handle the global financial crisis through close cooperation," he added.

At high-level talks in Brussels earlier this month, EU commissioners and a Chinese delegation headed by Vice Premier Wang Qishan agreed that trade and investment would lead the way to economic recovery.

Two-way trade has exploded in recent years making the European Union the top destination worldwide for exports of Chinese goods while China is Europe's biggest trade partner after only the United States.

Last year they traded 326 billion euros (441 billion dollars) in goods with Europe running a 169.4 billion euros deficit with China.

However, despite promises to broadly cooperate on trade, China and Europe have many differences on trade issues.

The Chinese government said on Friday it would urge the EU at the summit to relax limits on high-tech exports to China and review its anti-dumping policies.

Beijing is in particular eager to address the issue of gaining market economy status from the EU, which is a standard often used in anti-dumping cases.

In the latest of a slew of EU anti-dumping cases launched against China, the European nations agreed in April to extend anti-dumping duties on Chinese-made candles that enter force on Friday and will last for five years.

European Commission spokesman for trade Lutz Guellner said that "we don't have any new responses to offer" on those issues and said that for Europe the focus at the summit would be on fighting protectionism and advancing stalled WTO talks.

The Europeans are also eager to get Beijing to commit to ambitious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in view of a key international meeting on climate change in Copenhagen in December.

However, Beijing has proved reluctant, insisting instead that it is up to rich, developed countries to reduce their pollution and help developing countries.

"The Chinese don't want to discuss climate change issues seriously," Fox said.

AFP/Expatica

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