China and the European Union yesterday agreed to increase exchanges on food safety standards to boost bilateral trade in agricultural produce.
China's product quality watchdog and its EU counterpart also touched on China's poultry product exports to the EU amid the outbreak of bird flu. But the two sides refused to elaborate on the details of the negotiation.
The EU's export of meat, fruit, and cosmetic products to China were also on the agenda.
Li Changjiang, head of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine and EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection Markas Kyprianou also agreed to come up with more ways to tackle bird flu.
Kyprianou was invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to attend tomorrow's international pledging conference on combating bird flu and human influenza, jointly organized by the Chinese government, the EU and World Bank.
The two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen negotiation on regulations and standards on agricultural products in a bid to remove unnecessary trade obstacles.
China and the EU will cooperate more in the areas of information exchange and personnel training.
The steps follow a negotiation mechanism set up by China and the EU on industrial product safety and the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (WTO/TBT) in 2002.
The WTO/TBT, and food safety and animal and plant health measures (sanitary and phytosanitary measures) are basic rules in the WTO to ensure smooth and safe trade among its members.
Industry insiders said yesterday's signing is timely because the EU has adopted stricter food safety regulations from the beginning of 2006, and the information exchange will help Chinese producers better understand those standards.
Li said technical regulations and product standards might vary from country to country and negotiation is the best way to deal with unnecessary obstacles.
The EU continued to be China's largest trade partner in 2005, with bilateral trade valued at US$217.3 billion, up 22.6 percent year-on-year. China was the EU's second largest trading partner.
However, despite the achievements made by the two sides, there are still disputes between China and the EU over other trade issues.
Last year, the EU launched several dumping investigations against various Chinese products such as shoes, while quotas on Chinese textiles remain one of the thorniest issues in their trade ties.
Minister Bo Xilai of Commerce said that the number of disputed areas in China-EU trade is "very small," and so do not hamper the smooth expansion of overall economic and trade cooperation.
(China Daily January 17, 2006)