BEIJING Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will travel to Europe from Tuesday for a week, and fighting the global financial crisis will be a top issue. Here are some facts about his visit and China-Europe relations.
Wen will first travel to Switzerland and the World Economic Forum in Davis (Jan. 27-28), followed by Germany (Jan. 28-29), the European Union headquarters in Brussels (Jan. 29), Spain (Jan.30-31), and finally Britain (Jan. 31-Feb 2).
TRADE AND ECONOMIC TIES
The nations Wen will visit, except Switzerland, are members of the 27-nation European Union. Trade between China and the EU has more than doubled since 2003, from 119 billion euros ($154 billion) that year to 300 billion euros ($388 billion) in 2007.
But the European economies are rankled by their big trade deficit with China, which has stoked anti-dumping actions and WTO complaints. The EU deficit with China climbed to a record 160 billion euros ($207 billion) in 2007. And in the first 10 months of 2008 it expanded again to reach 138.8 billion euros ($179 billion), up 5.4 billion euros on the same period last year.
Switzerland has enjoyed a trade surplus with China, buoyed by its sales of watches and other technology. In the first half of 2008, trade between them reached 5.5 billion Swiss francs ($4.7 billion) in value, up 15.2 percent on the same period a year earlier. Switzerland had a surplus of 815 million Swiss francs ($701 million) in the first half of 2008, according to Swiss statistics.
China is the most frequent target of EU anti-dumping actions. In December, the EU's anti-dumping committee voted to adopt import duties of up to 87 percent on screws and bolts from China. And in January, an EU trade panel voted in favour of imposing temporary anti-dumping duties of 25 percent on Chinese-made steel wire rods.
TIBET AND HUMAN RIGHTS
China's relations with the EU have been ruffled by disputes over human rights and especially Tibet. Last year, Chinese people called for boycotts of French goods and shops after French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he may not go to the Beijing Olympic Games unless China opened up dialogue with the Dalai Lama, exiled leader of restive Tibet. Sarkozy went to the Games.
But Chinese anger has flared again after Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama in Poland in December, and Beijing called off a summit with the EU that was scheduled for that month in Lyons, when France still held the six-monthly rotating EU presidency.
Climate change is also a major topic in China-EU relations, especially ahead of a meeting in Copenhagen in December intended to seal a new global pact on fighting global warming and restricting greenhouse gas emissions.
The EU has announced its own goals to cut emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and has pressed China -- now widely believed to be the world's biggest total emitter -- to make firm commitments to restrict its emissions.
(1 euro=$1.2925; 1 Swiss franc=$0.86)