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Wen's visit holds great significance for Sino-EU ties
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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to the European Union (EU) headquarters at the end of this month has tremendous importance to the development of China-EU relations, which are embracing new opportunities and challenges.

It will also surely strengthen political mutual trust and deepen pragmatic cooperation in various fields between the two sides, Chinese Ambassador to the EU Song Zhe said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

Song said China hopes to take the opportunity of Wen's visit to boost cooperation with the EU in addressing the global challenges including the lingering financial crisis and fighting trade and investment protectionism, so as to contribute to the stabilization of the world economy and promotion of world peace and prosperity.

The Chinese premier started his official visits to four European countries and the EU headquarters on Tuesday. The tour has already taken him to Switzerland, where he attended the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, and Germany. He will also visit the European Union headquarters, Spain and Britain.

Premier Wen's visit will be the first by a Chinese leader in 2009, which showcases the great importance China attaches to its relations with the EU, Song said.

He added that Wen will hold meetings with EU leaders including European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana to exchange views on Sino-EU relations and global issues of common concern.

The two sides are expected to issue a joint statement and sign a few documents on promoting bilateral cooperation.

Speaking of the current Sino-EU relationship, Song said that generally speaking, the relations have kept a good momentum of development and their political basis have been increasingly consolidated.

Last April, the ambassador said, Barroso led nine European commissioners to visit China, a quite rare strong line-up in the history of EU-China relationship. During that visit, leaders from both sides agreed to deepen and broaden the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership.

Last August, a total of 54 senior politicians from 33 European countries attended the Beijing Olympic Games.

And thanks to the positive participation of the EU side, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) was successfully held in Beijing in October last year, which greatly enhanced exchanges and cooperation between Asia and the EU, and between China and the EU.

The economic and trade relations between China and the EU developed steadily in 2008. The EU continued to be China's largest trading partner and China's No. 1 export market with the two-way trade volume jumping to 425.58 billion U.S. dollars in the year, a year-on-year increase of 19.5 percent.

It was a tremendous achievement against the global slowdown of economic growth in 2008.

Meanwhile, Song said that China and the EU have been communicating and cooperating with each other very well on major international issues such as climate change, the Iranian nuclear issue, the Mideast peace process and nuclear non-proliferation.

However, the Chinese diplomat also pointed out that in 2008, the Sino-EU relations suffered difficulties and setbacks which rarely occurred in recent years.

"Incorrect moves" by leaders of a few EU nations on the issues of Tibet and human rights hurt China's core interests and reduced the political mutual trust and public support, forcing the postponement of the 11th leaders' meeting of China and the EU, he said.

Talking about the prospects for the development of Sino-EU relations, Song said that China and the EU will have more consensus and mutual benefits when both sides jointly deal with global challenges and major international and regional issues, as the current international political, economic, financial and security situations undergo deep changes and adjustments, providing both risks and opportunities.

The Sino-EU ties have already developed beyond bilateral framework and have gained more and more global strategic importance, said Song.

He stressed that China firmly sticks to its determination and policies to develop the comprehensive strategic partnership with the EU and cherishes the relationship which has been nurtured by the hard efforts of both sides.

China is ready to join hands with the EU to safeguard the relationship, and work for its healthy, stable and smooth development, on the basis of treating each other on an equal footing and with mutual respect, specially respecting each other's core interests, said the ambassador.

(Xinhua News Agency January 30, 2009)

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