China, EU forge closer ties
China and the European Union, meeting yesterday in the Hague, pledged to
boost relations while signing more than a dozen cooperation agreements.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, whose country holds the EU presidency, said
he told his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao that Europe would consider ending its
15-year-old embargo on arms sales in the future.
He said the EU was also
considering tightening its "code of conduct" for arms sales, which proponents
see as a safety net.
Balkenende and Wen met for almost three hours after
which the two parties signed agreements calling for closer cooperation in
science and technology, customs and student exchanges.
They also signed a
declaration committing to the nonproliferation of weapons of mass
EU and Chinese officials said their meeting underscored the
phenomenal growth in two-way trade that rocketed to 150 billion euros (US$202.5
billion) last year, double the 1999 figure.
In 1980, China ranked 25th on
the EU's list of most important trade partners. This year it is the EU's second
most important partner, after the United States, according to EU
Speaking at a joint news conference with Balkenende, Wen
acknowledged that differences on human rights and the arms ban weigh on the
He added, "That does not frighten us. It does not
prevent us from having a bilateral relationship."
Still, Wen called the arms
ban "political discrimination" and an outdated "product of the Cold War."
Lifting the embargo does not mean China would start buying lots of arms from the
EU, he said.
Speaking at a meeting with EU Commission President Jose Manuel
Barroso on Tuesday, Wen said promoting Sino-European relations would help
stabilize relations among major powers and was beneficial to their
"Widening and deepening Sino-European cooperation would benefit
not only the two sides but also the whole world," said Wen, who arrived earlier
in the day to attend the 7th China-EU summit aimed at strengthening the
comprehensive China-EU partnership.
Wen voiced the hope that China and the EU
would grasp the opportunity to advance bilateral ties, saying the two sides
should look upon Sino-European relations from a strategic and long-term
"This is our common task and responsibility," Wen
Barroso said all the EU member states supported the development of
comprehensive strategic ties between the EU and China, and attached great
importance to the cooperation achievements made by the two sides in various
fields over the past years.
He added that together with China, the EU under
his leadership would further promote the friendly ties between the EU and China
on the basis of consolidating what had been achieved.
Today Wen is to meet
with European business leaders and visit the European Space Agency.