Parties to talk on EU-China ties

Updated: 2012-05-25 10:53

By Zhao Yanrong (China Daily European Weekly)

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Cooperative efforts are expected to lead to greater understanding

A three-day forum next week in Brussels of the major political parties from the European Union and China is unlikely to result directly in any sudden changes of policy, far less any dramatic action on economic or trade issues.

This is especially true when, as one analyst points out, the relationship between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the multifarious European parties is a complex one, and there can be as many differences of opinion as there is agreement over any one issue.

But it is expected these talks, as on the previous two occasions they have been held, will at least improve cooperation among the parties, at a time when Europe, especially, is facing crucial economic challenges and political changes.

The theme of the third China-Europe High-Level Political Party Forum on May 29-31 is "How can the EU and China cooperate to meet common challenges?"

"The forum's themes always closely follow the changes in world affairs and the development of EU-China relations. When the current world affairs are undergoing profound changes and the recovery from economic crisis still faces many challenges, mutually beneficial cooperation is our common choice," says Wang Hua, director of the Western European affairs bureau for the Central Committee of the CPC's international department.

This year's dialogue between the two sides aims to promote pragmatic China-EU cooperation on trade, finance and other areas, to improve learning and shared experience in social construction, and to develop coordination and cooperation in addressing global challenges arising from international and regional contentious issues.

The forum was launched in 2010 in Beijing. The second was held in Beijing, Tianjin and Brussels last year.

The CPC now has exchanges with more than 150 national parties and five regional parties in Europe, and five political party groups in the European Parliament, according to Li Jinjun, deputy minister of the CPC Central Committee's international department.

"Exchanges at a party level now constitute an important part of China-EU cooperation and serve as an important propellant for a comprehensive strategic partnership in the new era," Li adds.

Qu Xing, director of the China Institute of International Studies, says China and Europe have very complex relations. Because of the different interests of various stakeholders in the relationship, there are as many differences of opinion as there are opportunities for cooperation on the same issues.

"It's a long journey which requires a great deal of continuing communication between the two sides. Not just knowing, but understanding each other," he says.

Qu says it is hard to gauge how much the forum will impact on China-EU relations, but an event like this is necessary nonetheless.

The debt crisis in Europe also affects political stability in the continent. More than 10 leaders in Europe had to step down from office this year.

The forum is different from governmental visits, which mostly involve ruling parties, as it helps the CPC to better understand the position of more European political parties, according to Qu.

"Therefore, this forum can be a good platform to observe and understand the European political situation," he adds.

Similarly, business cooperation between China and Europe may not dramatically change following a single round of talks, but the forum can still have a positive effect in clearing barriers on bilateral investment and trade.

In 2011, China-EU trade volume reached a record $567.2 billion (448 billion euros), 18.3 percent higher than the previous year. However, frequent anti-dumping measures are being taken by the EU against Chinese products.

Meanwhile, investment from all 27 EU members to China in the first four months of this year was only $1.9 billion, a drop of 27.9 percent from the same period in 2011, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

"Helping major political parties from Europe understand the Chinese economy can also help reduce misunderstandings between the two sides, and it makes for much closer cooperation in business," says Huo Jianguo, president of the ministry's Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.

"The EU should have already realized that expanding economic cooperation is necessary during difficult economic times. More anti-dumping investigations on Chinese products will not only affect Chinese exports, but also the EU's recovery from the crisis."

Huo says Chinese delegates will discuss more forms of financial cooperation between China and Europe. In the current crisis, Europe needs to improve financial cooperation with China.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, China's investment in Europe increased 94.1 percent to $4.28 billion last year. More foreign investment in the EU would be greatly welcomed during the process of economic recovery.

"Even during difficult economic times, Europe is still a relatively good market to invest, since they have a good investment environment," he says, adding that some high-risk areas and industries should be avoided.

According to Huo, major infrastructure construction programs and countries with lower debt in Europe are worth investing in.

"Whatever, we are looking forward to a positive attitude on cooperation from the EU side at this forum."