Monday, October 6, 2008

Official: China-EU push new frontiers on trade

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China and its top trading partner EU have managed in the latest ministerial level dialogue to draw a roadmap to more business opportunities and less restrictions on bilateral trade and investment. The two sides also make commitments on working together to push the Doha round forward.

The meeting took place when world economies are grappling with their internal inflation and the US financial crisis. Declining demand in the US and Europe does not bode well for their trading partners.

Altogether 23 points of consensus have been reached at the 23rd China-EU Economic and Trade Joint Committee which was co-chaired by Chinese Minister of Commerce Chen Deming and European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson on Sept. 25 in Beijing. "We had expected around 20 points before the meeting, but we have achieved more than that," said Sun Yongfu, Director-General of Department of European Affairs, Ministry of Commerce in an exclusive interview with People's Daily Online on Sept. 28.

According to Mr. Sun who also leads the Chinese team of the Senior Official Meeting, the Joint Committee is the most important platform to address existing problems in bilateral economic and trade relations and implement strategies set up by the Vice-Premier level of High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue launched in April 2008. It will also do preparatory work for the trade part of the upcoming 11th China-EU Summit on December 1st in France and the second HED to be held in spring 2009 in Europe.

The negotiation of upgrading the existing economic and trade cooperation agreement signed in 1985 as the legal framework of the bilateral trade relations is high on the agenda of the joint committee. The first round of the negotiation was launched in October 2007. Discussions are underway on 13 chapters out of the 20. Both sides express their satisfaction on the development of the talks so far and hope a fair, balanced new legal basis will be built. But there is no time frame for the conclusion of the negotiation.

Mr. Sun highlighted other consensus reached on IPR actions, dialogues on disputes over specific trades, development cooperation initiatives with 73.8 million euro, and collaboration on reconstruction of China's quake affected areas.

The IPR issue has long been a big concern for the EU sides. Both sides agree to accelerate the talks on the IPR Custom Enforcement Action Plan. More cooperation will be conducted on online infringement.

Progress has also been attained on sanitary and photo-sanitary protocols to pave the way for the exports of fruits and pork from EU to China. The EU has agreed to lift the import ban of heated poultry products from China's Shandong province and will probably extend the relaxation to Jilin province.
EU is the largest source of imported technologies for China. Mr. Sun said China would like to expand the cooperation on this regard and welcome sophisticated equipment from the EU particularly.

A tech transfer deal was reached between a European telecommunication company and its Chinese partner recently. Both sides encourage more similar contracts.

In environmental sector, European companies will have more opportunities. Mr. Sun noted that China was willing to import goods and services of environmental protection and energy efficiency from the EU.

The two sides also show readiness of solving their disputes through consultations instead of confrontations. They agree to make full use of the existing dialogues on textile, steel and iron products. There are trade balance talks at vice-minister level.

Mr. Sun insisted that the EU be more cautious about launching anti-dumping investigations against Chinese products to ensure "fair treatment". The EU, on its side, promises to pay more attention to the legal and factual basis in those cases.

Mr. Sun reiterated China's firm support to the Doha round talks and continuous efforts on pushing that forward after the Mini-ministerial meeting broke down in Geneva in July. He said Minister Chen Deming discussed that issue with his European counterpart Mandelson at the joint committee this time and over many phone calls.

"China is on the side of liberalization," said Sun, adding that bilateral free trade agreements or regional trade agreement, albeit helpful, was not the mainstream and China would try its best to continue to play a constructive role and encourage other members to be engaged.

By People's Daily Online

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