Expatica news

Chinese premier in Belgium

5 May 2004

BRUSSELS – Chinese premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Brussels on Wednesday for a two-day visit that forms part of an official tour of European capitals.

Wen arrived at Brussels in the middle of the morning on a flight from Berlin, where he and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Monday issued a joint declaration that boosted the already sturdy trade and political links between their two countries.

The Chinese premier will meet senior European Union officials including European Commission President Romano Prodi during his trip to Brussels.

He is also set to hold talks with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.

Analysts say Wen is likely to use his meeting with Prodi to press the EU to lift an embargo on arms sales to China that has been in place since the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square in central Beijing.

But they add that the Chinese premier is unlikely to get his way.

They point to comments made last month by Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen that the embargo would stay in place until at least the middle of this year.

Ireland currently holds the six-month rotating EU presidency.

Wen is likely to have more luck when he talks about strengthening the already strong trade links between the EU and China however.

China is now the EU’s second largest trading partner after the United States and the EU is China’s third largest.

Ahead of Wen’s visit Prodi said he was keen to see the Union and Beijing strengthen their relations.

“China is becoming more and more a global player and, with the new enlargement, the EU’s influence is assuming new dimensions at home and abroad,” he said.

“In this context I believe the EU and China have an ever growing interest in working together,” he added.

On Thursday Wen, Prodi and EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy are all set to attend an EU-China business conference in Brussels.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news