China's Hu visits Austria ahead of Cannes G20 summit

31st October 2011, Comments 0 comments

China's President Hu Jintao began an official visit to Austria Monday ahead of a crucial G20 meeting in France, amid hopes that Beijing may lend a helping hand to the debt-stricken EU.

Hu and his wife Liu Yongqing are on a two-day state visit to Austria with business and sight-seeing on the agenda.

Although they flew in the previous evening, the official visit began Monday, when couple were received with military honours at the Imperial Palace by Austrian President Heinz Fischer and his wife Margit.

That was to by talks between the two leaders and the two were later to oversee the signing of six bilateral agreements in areas including energy efficiency, environmental protection, hydropower and cultural exchanges.

A state banquet and meetings with Chancellor Werner Faymann and parliament speaker Barbara Prammer were also planned.

Tuesday will be dedicated to sightseeing, with a visit to the scenic Salzkammergut region, a short lake cruise in St Gilgen, and a classical concert at the former Salzburg home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Hu's visit to Europe, his second in a year, comes after EU leaders last week appealed to China to invest in the region's debt rescue fund to help it overcome a spiralling debt crisis.

Klaus Regling, the head of the bailout fund -- the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) -- travelled to Beijing last week to strike a deal with the world's second-largest economy, reportedly seeking a pledge of $100 billion.

But while Hu welcomed a last-ditch agreement by EU leaders Thursday to tackle the crisis, Beijing has officially remained non-committal about its involvement.

On Friday, Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said the G20 summit, which Hu will attend in the French resort of Cannes on November 3-4, should focus on the sovereign debt crisis in "developed countries" and the growing pressure of global inflation.

Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao however played down hopes of a breakthrough at the G20 meeting, insisting investment in the European bailout fund was not on the agenda.

Hu's visit to Austria, only the second by a Chinese president after Jiang Zemin in 1999, follows an invitation by Fischer, who travelled to Beijing last year. It comes as Austria and China celebrate 40 years of bilateral relations.

Foreign trade between the two countries amounted to 8.2 billion euros ($11.6 billion) in 2010.

China, which is reportedly sending a 160-strong delegation to accompany Hu, is especially keen on Austrian know-how in areas like infrastructure, transportation and environmental technology.

Vienna has meanwhile sent a stream of ministers to Beijing this year for talks and business deals, including Chancellor Faymann and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, who also made a point of meeting political activists such as artist Ai Weiwei.

Sunday evening, the Tibetan community in Austria staged a minor protest near Hu's hotel and more were planned, including in Salzburg, during his stay.

Tight security was in place and parts of the city centre were also to be shut down.

Hu flies on to Cannes from Salzburg early Wednesday.

© 2011 AFP

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