China-EU cooperation bumpy in 2009

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The year 2009 has been bumpy for the China-EU relationship, but the two sides have managed to tide over difficulties and joined hands in face of the global financial crisis.

China-EU cooperation

The European Union and China remained strong partners in various fields.

As the world becomes increasingly complex and diversified, the China-EU relationship is one of the most important partnerships in the world. China is the biggest developing country with a huge consumer market. The EU is China's second largest trading partner, while China is the EU's second most important export market just following the United States.

In the past 35 years, China-EU trade has grown remarkably as the trade value topped 425.58 billion U.S. dollars last year, an increase of 19.5 percent over the year before.

Being two major actors on the international stage, the EU and China have always jointly called for efforts in different fields such as addressing the financial crisis, and maintaining the stability of the international financial markets. Finding a way to economic recovery is one of shared interests of China and the EU.

In 2009, the Lisbon Treaty, EU's reform treaty, entered into force on Dec. 1 as scheduled. Then Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy became the first full-time president.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said after the Lisbon Treaty takes effect, the EU institutions will undergo reform and the EU will become better coordinated both internally and externally, and the process of European integration will be accelerated.

This is good for the development of relations between the EU and China, Barroso said.


Since the year 2008, China-EU relations have been marked by trade disputes with anti-dumping measures being at the center.

In April 2009, EU agreed to impose anti-dumping tariffs of up to 50 percent on Chinese-made candles sold in the EU, which accounted for one third of candles on the EU market.

Even some Europeans think that the decision on candles was protectionism, said British Real Consortium's Brussels Director Alisdair Gray.

In June 2009, raw materials became the bone of contention as the EU and the United States took a joint decision against China at the World Trade Organization over China's use of export restrictions on raw materials.

Among the major issues that divided China and the EU, import duties on shoes from China is one of the thorniest. The European Commission had proposed an extension of duties up to 16.5 percent of leather shoe imports form China on Dec. 2. The proposal, if improved, would hurt interests of China shoe manufacturers.

The European Commission proposal was also unwelcome by many in the EU. In November, an EU advisory committee on anti-dumping voted against the informal European Commission proposal.

"This kind of unjustified taxation of European importers and consumers will not get my support," said Danish Economy Minister Lene Espersen.

"Once again we are seeing the EU's trade policy determined by afew southern European producers who have failed to see globalization as an opportunity," said Robert Sturdy, a member of the European Parliament.

Latest China-EU summit

On Nov. 30 in Nanjing, China, the two sides held a summit at which climate change was a focal issue. The Chinese government pledged to cut the emissions per unit of gross domestic product bybetween 40 and 45 percent from the 2005 levels by 2020. This offeris "a major contribution to global efforts" to tackle climate change.

The China-EU summit may be marked by some differences. But agreements have been reached. The two sides vowed to step up efforts to promote trade and investment and increase effective market access.

China welcomed the European Commission's pledge to provide up to 57 million Euros (82.1 million dollars) to a joint near-zero emissions coal project. China will continue to take active measures to increase imports from Europe to address the trade imbalance.

Chinese President Hu Jintao said at the summit that China would like to make concerted efforts with the EU to push the relationship to a new high.

"Both sides should be far-sighted and keep the overall orientation of China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership... both should keep in mind the overall situation of bilateral relationship and properly handle new issues and problems arising in the development process of China-EU relations," he said.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, praised China's effort to tackle the global financial crisis. He said the EU would like to work with China, stand against protectionism and seek an early recovery of the world economy.

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