China-EU talks focus on debt crisis

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Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice Premier Li Keqiang met with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday, vowing to boost the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries. And China said on Tuesday it believes Europe can handle its debt crisis.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (R) meets with Catherine Ashton, EU high representative for foreign affairs and the European Commission's vice president, in Beijing on July 10, 2012.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (R) meets with Catherine Ashton, EU high representative for foreign affairs and the European Commission's vice president, in Beijing on July 10, 2012. [Xinhua photo]

The statement comes only weeks after the Chinese government announced it will contribute US$43 billion to the International Monetary Fund's recapitalization, part of which will be directed to help the EU remedy its dire financial situation.

In the annual China-EU Strategic Dialogue the two sides agreed to hold regular talks on defense and security and said they are looking at boosting their cooperation on anti-piracy missions off the coast of Somalia.

Experts said the confidence expressed by China over Europe's economic recovery is of special significance to the EU, while talks on security cooperation signal a new field of tangible cooperation between the two powers.

"China reaffirmed its support for European integration, Europe's efforts to solve its debt crisis and the stability of the eurozone," said a joint statement released on Tuesday at the end of the dialogue.

"China is sincere and firm in supporting European efforts to deal with the sovereign debt problem," State Councilor Dai Bingguo told reporters at a joint press conference with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The two senior diplomats, co-chairing the dialogue, spoke on Tuesday morning at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse for more than an hour.

"We have every confidence in the future of Europe," Dai said.

Ashton welcomed China's support. She said the talks focused on "strong trade and investment links and our aspiration to see them develop".

Europe is China's biggest trading partner and China is a major holder of European debt.

In a bid to help tackle the European debt crisis, President Hu Jintao announced at the G20 summit in June that China will contribute US$43 billion to the IMF recapitalization of US$430 billion.

Ashton told Premier Wen Jiabao when they met later on Tuesday that the assistance from China, especially when Europe is in difficulties, is "very precious".

Wen said the financial crisis should be seen as a severe challenge to Europe but also "an important opportunity" to make its ties with China "more mature and stable".

"China welcomes the important results reached at the EU summit (held in late June) on stimulating growth and supports Europe as it continues to take effective measures to boost market confidence," Wen was quoted saying in a press release issued by the Foreign Ministry.

"China as a developing country has done its best to support the EU where it is able and create a positive atmosphere to help solve the debt problem," said Tian Dewen, an expert on European studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Tuesday's talks were aimed at paving the way for the next summit of Chinese and European leaders in Brussels in the autumn.

At the last EU-China summit, which was delayed from October 2011 to February this year because of the European debt crisis, China renewed its support for the euro.

During Tuesday's talks Dai and Ashton also touched upon hot issues including Iran and Syria. No details of those discussions were released.

Ashton arrived in China on Sunday for the first leg of a five-day mission to Asia.

Aside from meeting Wen and Dai, she had a number of high-level meetings in Beijing, including meeting Defense Minister Liang Guanglie and Wang Jiarui, minister of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

On Wednesday Ashton is scheduled to visit the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to meet new Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to discuss the EU's strong economic and political ties with the region. She will then travel to Cambodia to participate in the 19th ASEAN Regional Forum on Thursday.

Jin Ling, a scholar on European studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said the third China-EU strategic dialogue demonstrated growth in the relationship.

"It is quite new for China and the EU to cooperate on defense and security," Jin said.

"Issues covered in the dialogue this time are more extensive, and each issue is more deeply discussed by both decision-makers and those who carry out the decisions," she said.

Concrete agreements in cooperation on anti-piracy missions off the coast of Somalia and even cyber security might be reached in the China-EU summit in Brussels later this year, Jin said.

On Ashton's Asia trip, Jin said as the US shifts its focus to the Asia-Pacific, the EU also wants to be involved in the region that offers it a large market.

EU is trying to find appropriate ways to participate in contentious issues in the region, Jin said.

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