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Sino-EU Trade Dialogue Pact Signed

China and the European Union (EU) inked an agreement on the creation of a China-EU competition policy dialogue Monday, indicating their sincerity in promoting coordination in resolving international trade disputes, analysts said. 

"It (the agreement) is very promising, and it provides a framework for systematic cooperation between the two sides,'' visiting European Commissioner Mario Monti said Monday.

It is China's first competition policy dialogue agreement.

"I'm impressed by our Chinese colleagues' strong willingness to cooperate with the EU,'' Monti said yesterday after his meeting with officials from China's Ministry of Commerce. Monti is responsible for competition policy in the EU.

Competition policy is widely regarded as a way of ensuring wider consumer choice, technological innovation and effective price competition, thus contributing to both consumer welfare and to the competitiveness of industries.

The primary objective of the dialogue is to establish a permanent mechanism for consultation and transparency between China and the EU in this area, and to enhance the EU's technical and capacity-building assistance to China in the area of competition policy, according to the agreement.

"The establishing of such a dialogue mechanism will benefit both sides and improve the transparency of markets,'' said Xue Rongjiu, president of Beijing-based World Trade Organization Research Association.

"Competition policy will be a crucial element of China's efforts to restructure its industries and make them more competitive, given the size of the Chinese economy and the level of investment in China,'' Xue said.

Zhou Shijian, an adviser at the China-EU Research Center, said that the dialogue would help establish smooth and sustainable trade relations between China and the EU.

The EU has provided nearly 20 Chinese enterprises with "market economy treatment'' since 1999, according to Zhou, saying it is an "encouraging'' step in Sino-EU trade and economic cooperation.

"The dialogue is of great significance for both parties, as it will help them resolve their trade disputes through coordination rather than retaliatory means,'' said Zhou.

"The process of consolidation of competition policy in China is a very significant development for the international dimension of competition policy,'' said Franz Jessen, Minister Counselor at the European Commission Delegation in China.

"As China advances in the process of economic reform, it is essential that authorities create a level-playing field in order to allow all companies, public and private, Chinese and foreign, to enjoy the same opportunities in the market. This will be primarily in the interests of Chinese consumers and SMEs (small and middle-sized enterprises),'' he said.

China has adopted regulations on mergers and acquisitions and on price control including the prohibition of abusive behavior by dominant companies.

Experts familiar with the legislation plan of China's top legislative body, the National People's Congress (NPC), said the 10th NPC will scrutinize about 61 draft bills in the following five years.

Among them there may be new laws such as a Bankruptcy Law, an Anti-Dumping Law, an Anti-monopoly Law, an Anti-subsidies Law, a Telecommunications Law, a State-Asset Management Law and a Taxation Law.

Currently, China and the EU are each other's third largest trade partners. The EU is also the fourth largest foreign direct investment source and the largest technology import source for China.

Both sides expressed their goal "to become each other's largest trade and investment partner.''

President of the European Commission Romano Prodi told the reporters during his visit to China in October that there were no "major differences'' between the two sides on whether to grant China "complete market economy status,'' saying that he himself was very "confident'' about the prospect of such a move.

(China Daily November 25, 2003)

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