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China, EU Deepen Strategic Partnership in 2005

China and the European Union (EU) have deepened their strategic partnership in an all-around way in 2005, a year that marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two sides.

China-EU political dialogue enhanced

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the bilateral diplomatic ties has offered plenty of opportunities for China and the 25-member bloc to strengthen their political dialogue.

The China-EU summit, initiated in 1998 by then Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is the highest level of regular political dialogue mechanism between China and the EU.

In September, the 8th China-EU summit was held in Beijing. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Blair, whose country holds the current EU presidency, and European Commission (EC) President Jose Manuel Barroso held talks and signed a series of cooperation agreements, including those on climate and space programs.

The summit has injected "important impetus" into the development of the all-around strategic partnership between the two sides, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said.

During the summit, China and the EU also agreed to set up another regular political dialogue mechanism -- vice ministerial-level strategic dialogue.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui visited London in December to hold the first such strategic dialogue with the EU president.

Apart from regular political dialogues, leaders from China and the EU have exchanged frequent visits this year.

Chinese President Hu Jintao attended the Group of Eight (G8) summit in Scotland in July and also visited Britain, Germany and Spain in October.

In December, Premier Wen made a tour of four EU member states -- France, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Portugal -- and signed many agreements of cooperation. China and Portugal announced the establishment of an all-around strategic partnership.

For the EU, besides leaders from its member states, eight commissioners from the EC, including Barroso himself, visited China this year, which was described within the EU headquarters as a "China year."

For Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson alone, he has visited China three times in 2005.

In addition, scholars from China and the EU also conducted a series of symposiums, increasing communications and exchanges among academic circles of the two sides.

Trade soars despite quarrels

After the biggest-ever enlargement in May last year, the EU has become the largest trading partner of China, and China the second largest trading partner of the EU.

In 2005, trade between the two sides remained robust.

According to statistics issued by China's customs authorities, China-EU trade from January to November hit US$196.77 billion, up 23.6 percent from that of the same period last year.

In November, Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai, during a visit to the EU headquarters, said bilateral trade would surpass US$200 billion for the whole year.

During Premier Wen's four-day official visit to France early December, China and France signed a deal on purchasing 150 mid-range Airbus A-320 jets worth nearly US$10 billion, the biggest single deal in the history of Airbus.

However, despite the achievements made by the two sides, there are still disputes between China and the EU over some trade issues.

Over the year, the EU has launched several anti-dumping investigations against various Chinese products such as shoes, while quotas on China's textile remain one of the knottiest issues in their trade ties.

In view of the good atmosphere of the Sino-EU relations, the two sides have properly dealt with their trade disputes over textile products.

The EU will set a transition period for canceling quotas, while China agreed to properly handle stock piles of textile at EU ports.

Just as Bo Xilai put it, the number of disputed areas in the China-EU trade is "very small," which does not hamper a smooth expansion of the China-EU economic cooperation.

In addition, China and the EU have made more progress in scientific cooperation and cultural exchanges.

Highlighting the 2005 Sino-European high-tech cooperation is China's active participation in the Galileo satellite navigation system, a major European project.

In July, the two sides signed three application contracts, making China the first country outside Europe to join the Galileo Project.

Moreover, China and the EU, together with four other partners, decided in June to locate a US$12 billion project for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor at Cadarache in southern France, a site proposed by the EU and backed by China.

Talks on new partnership pact expected

Looking ahead, China and the EU are facing an impending job to launch talks on a new partnership framework agreement, in a bid tore place the 1985 Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement.

In May, EC external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the EU hoped to start the talks within the year.

According to well-informed sources, both sides are currently making preparations for launching the talks.

For the EU side, it has invited at least two institutes in Brussels to conduct studies on China and the EU-China relations, aiming to solicit advice on launching the talks.

"A new agreement will make it much easier for us to realize the full potential of our partnership and will be a strong signal of our mutual commitment to deepening our relationship," Solana said.

(Xinhua News Agency December 23, 2005)

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