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Chinese Premier Leaves for Europe Visit

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has left Beijing for an official visit to Europe set to focus on expanding trade and strategic partnerships.


The premier will visit Germany, Belgium, Italy, Britain, Ireland and the headquarters of the European Union.


The 10-day visit will be the premier's first to Europe since he took office last year.


China says its relations with the EU are at an all-time high, a claim backed by the EU ambassador to China, Klaus Ebermann.


China overtook Japan in 2003 to become the EU's second largest trading partner, while the EU is China's third largest.


Experts and officials of both sides believe Sino-European relations are in their best and most dynamic period yet. Despite this, Premier Wen Jiabao is still going to talk tough on some issues. China's market status is one of them.


Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui says China has long conducted negotiations with the European Union about this, and there has been some progress. But, he says, bilateral trade disputes won't be solved until market status is given to China.


Since the visit follows hot on the heels of the National People's Congress passing a resolution to rule out general elections in Hong Kong in 2007 and 2008, Zhang Yesui says the Hong Kong issue may well be discussed during the visit.


The vice minister says Hong Kong may be a major topic for premier Wen Jiabao and British leaders. He will tell his British counterpart that the Hong Kong question is China's internal affair. One country two systems has been well implemented in Hong Kong, and the Basic Law well guarantees Hong Kong citizens' rights and democratic development in the region. The social system in Hong Kong has not changed, and the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong people have not changed.


The vice minister also praises some European country's calls for the lifting of the military embargo on China. He says the military embargo is a relic of the Cold War and hinders the development of Sino-EU relations.


Premier Wen Jiabao's visit is also aimed at promoting bilateral trade cooperation. It's said more than 30 agreements and contracts will be signed during the visit, and some will make waves on their own right.


(cri.com May 2, 2004)

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