China buying mission leaves for Europe spending spree
Beijing -- Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming left for Europe Tuesday at the head of a 300-strong team charged with spending billions of dollars on European products, the government and state media said.
The procurement team, which will visit Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Britain, could end up spending 15 billion yuan (2.2 billion dollars) or "considerably" more, the China Daily reported.
"The Chinese government’s organisation of the trade and investment mission to Europe comes as the world economy is facing recession due to the international financial crisis," said Gao Hucheng, a vice commerce minister, in a statement on the ministry’s website. "It shows China’s determination to open up its market and push for the revival of the world economy by strengthening cooperation with other countries in the world."
Officials from industry associations in the sectors of food, textile, mining and health insurance were part of the delegation, the statement said.
Commerce ministry spokesman Yao Jian said last week that the delegation would mainly buy technology and equipment.
Xinhua news agency said the delegation would be made up of about 300 officials and business people.
The China Daily cited Yao as saying that the country’s demand for European goods was growing as a result of the rollout of a four-trillion-yuan economic stimulus package that includes huge infrastructure projects.
"Europe has an obvious edge in providing us with the equipment we need," he said, according to the paper.
The mission also aims to strengthen China-Europe trade ties prior to President Hu Jintao’s trip to the Group of 20 Major Economies Summit, to be held in London in April, the China Daily said.
The newspaper said the mission, first announced by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during his visit to Britain earlier this month, would showcase China’s strong domestic demand and a determination to fight trade protectionism.
"Chen can take a positive message to the world,” Song Hong, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences think-tank, was quoted as saying. “China, as a major trading power, has no interest in adopting protectionism."
China has said it is "deeply concerned" over trade protectionism in other countries amid the global economic crisis, hitting out at the "Buy American" clause in the huge American economic stimulus package.
The clause requires the use of American iron, steel and manufactured goods in public works projects funded by the bill.
The European Union is China’s largest trading partner, its most important source for technology imports and its largest export destination, while China is the EU’s second-largest trading partner.
Bilateral trade rose by 19.5 percent to 425.6 billion dollars in 2008, with China holding a trade surplus of 160 billion dollars, according to official Chinese data.