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Agri-partnerships Key to Trade

An Asia-European Meeting (ASEM) session and an international trade fair may have opened at different venues in Beijing yesterday, but they had the same theme: Intensifying agricultural collaboration and trade.


Speaking at the ASEM High-Level Conference on Agricultural Cooperation, Vice Premier Hui Liangyu proposed that Asia and Europe forge a partnership in the agricultural sector, and actively explore avenues for success on joint projects.


Highlighting the bright prospects for agricultural trade in the regions, Hui said the two sides should take into account their development disparities, and identify priorities -- like agro-technology, standardization and management.


As China strives to improve incomes for its farmers and vigorously develops its rural economy, the country will continue to improve its alliances in the agricultural sector with other ASEM members, Hui said.


Trade volume -- including that of farm produce -- between China and ASEM members hit US$287.496 billion last year, accounting for 46.3 per cent of the country's total foreign trade, customs statistics showed.


The one-day meeting was the first of its kind ever held by ASEM since it was founded in 1996. The organization encompasses 10 Asian countries, 15 European Union members plus the European Commission.


Partly in response to Vice Premier Hui's proposal, the ASEM delegates yesterday vowed to boost inter-regional agricultural trade and investment, meanwhile enhancing coordination in the new round of agricultural negotiations of the World Trade Organization.


In the Chairman's Statement produced at the end of the meeting, the participants said agricultural biotechnology may hold the key to sustainable growth of agriculture in ASEM members, but public acceptance and support is essential to the development and use of such technology.


Coinciding with the ASEM gathering, a five-day agricultural trade fair opened yesterday at the China National Agricultural Exhibition Center, bringing together buyers and suppliers from across China and nine other countries and regions.


A bonanza of more than 3,000 varieties of farm produce was displayed at the fair -- most of it for sale. It turned the exhibition center into a giant showcase for visitors to choose products of top-grade quality.


Minister of Agriculture Du Qinglin said the event would stimulate rural development by providing a chance for Chinese companies to enhance links with clients at home and abroad.


(China Daily November 13, 2003)

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