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Xi Brugge

Xi Visit Cements Ties with EU

2 April 2014

President Xi Jinping returned to Beijing yesterday after spending more than a week in Europe meeting with royalty, heads of state and government, business leaders, students and making the first-ever visit by a Chinese president to the EU headquarters.

Xi kicked off his visit in the Netherlands where he attended the Nuclear Safety Summit, an important meeting which also allowed him the opportunity for a number of bilaterals, including with President Obama. The two leaders discussed current tensions in Ukraine and North East Asia. Xi also used the summit to call for the re-starting of Six Party Talks with North Korea. Prior to the summit Xi met with Dutch Premier Rutte and signed a new comprehensive partnership agreement aimed at deepening ties between the Netherlands and China.

Next stop was France where the President visited Lyon before moving to Paris for meetings and a gala dinner at the invitation of President Hollande. The French visit was designed to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Paris and Beijing. President Hollande, unpopular at home due to poor economic growth, was pleased to announce that contracts had been signed for deals worth 18 billion euros including 70 Airbus planes. Airbus Helicopters and China's Avicopter also agreed to jointly produce 1,000 civilian helicopters over 20 years. Other deals covered the nuclear, financial, agricultural and automotive sectors.

There were also many business deals signed when President Xi moved to Germany which accounts for just under half of all EU exports to China. Of special note was auto giant Daimler announcing a production deal with Beijing Automotive Industry Cooperation worth one billion euros. The Bundesbank and China's central bank also agreed a declaration of intent to set up a yuan clearing and settlement centre in Frankfurt, Germany’s finance centre and home of the European Central Bank.

On the political side, Chancellor Merkel and Xi said they were committed to deepening ties and increasing coordination in the UN, G20 and other international bodies. On Ukraine, Merkel said that Germany stood for the observance of territorial integrity and international law. For his part, Xi said China sought to stay out of the internal affairs of other states and respected all nations' integrity and sovereignty. He added that China supported the constructive efforts which the international community was undertaking to reduce tensions.

Xi also met with German President Gauck who welcomed China’s reform course and urged China to continue its push towards more liberal markets and a system of justice "in which nobody is to stand above the law".

Before leaving Germany, Xi visited a logistics centre at the inland port in Duisburg, linked with China by the world's longest rail freight transport line.

The final stop on Xi’s European tour was Belgium for bilateral talks with Premier Di Rupo and a lavish state banquet offered by King Philippe.

In Brussels Xi also paid the first ever visit by a Chinese president to the EU headquarters where he met with European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and European Parliament president Martin Schulz.

The EU is China's largest trading partner, with two-way trade at more than a billion euros a day, so naturally economic issues were high on the agenda. A number of trade disputes had been resolved before Xi’s visit so the talks were centred on future cooperation, especially the likely impact of the investment treaty under negotiation. The Chinese side made clear their faith in Europe’s economic recovery and said China wanted to double its investments in the EU in the next five years. There was also a pointer to an eventual future free trade area.

On the political side there was discussion on regional hot spots and agreement to intensify cooperation on foreign and security policy. President van Rompuy pointed to the recent joint naval exercise in the Gulf of Aden as an example of how the two sides could cooperate in future. Africa was also singled out as a region where the two sides should deepen cooperation. There was also agreement to intensify the dialogues on human rights and the rule of law.

The final event was a speech on EU-China relations in the historic city of Bruges. President Xi praised the achievements of the EU and described the process of European integration as a major contribution to world peace. He cited the 2020 strategic agenda, agreed at the last summit in Beijing, as the basic building block to continue the EU-China strategic partnership into its second decade.

In addition to the many trade deals and new political agreements signed, the President’s visit will have given him first-hand experience of four important EU member states as well as the EU institutions. Xi will also have been able to cement his contacts with European leaders which will be important for future relations. China has described 2014 as ‘the year of Europe.’ President Xi’s visit has ensured that it will be a successful year in EU-China relations.

 

Following Xi's visit to Europe, China issued its second Policy Paper on the EU. It is available online.