China, Europe address trade in talks dogged by Tibet


China and the European Union vowed on Friday to seek balanced trade and foster cooperation in climate change in high-level meetings dogged by tension over Tibet protests and the Olympics.

EU officials led by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso had intended meetings with senior Chinese officials in Beijing this week to help ease rifts over China’s big trade deficit and to foster agreement on “sustainable” growth. Economic tensions have festered as China’s trade surplus with the EU bloc surged to nearly €160 billion ($251 billion) last year, according to EU data. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the two sides had agreed to enhance cooperation on energy conservation and emissions reduction. “Our mutual benefits by far outweigh the conflicts. As long as we respect, trust and learn from each other, there will surely be a better future for the Sino-EU relationship,” Wen told reporters.

Barroso said the main focus of the talks was climate change and China had signaled its will to make domestic emissions part of a global agreement to tackle climate change after 2012. He said there were “major imbalances” in trade and both sides had agreed on the necessity for a rebalance. The long-prepared talks have been upstaged by anti-Chinese unrest across Tibetan areas last month, followed by Tibet protests that upset the Beijing Olympic torch relay in London and Paris, and then nationalist Chinese counter-protests. Barroso called for reporters currently visiting Tibet to have free access. “This is the best way to achieve better understanding of the realities,” he said. He said he hoped to see “positive developments regarding Tibet soon”, without giving details. But Xinhua news agency, quoting official sources, said China’s central government department would meet the Dalai Lama’s private representative in the coming days.

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson on Thursday urged an end to mutual threats of boycotts. The European Parliament has asked EU leaders to boycott the opening ceremony at the Beijing Games in August unless China opens talks with the Dalai Lama. Such calls, and Chinese public counter-campaigns to boycott European companies, especially the French supermarket chain Carrefour, served neither side, Mandelson said on Thursday. Barroso repeated his stand against a boycott of the Beijing Olympics or boycotts against any companies. “I think that it makes no sense at all to have these kinds of actions against any companies,” he said. (Reuters)

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