EU and China rebuild ties and seek "new global order"

By Darren Ennis

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The European Union and China hope to relaunch their political and economic relations at a summit on Wednesday and create a "new global order" to combat the financial crisis, dwindling world trade and climate change.

The last scheduled EU-China summit was postponed in December over Beijing's opposition to a meeting between Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy when France held the 27-nation bloc's rotating presidency.

Relations have also been further strained over Europe's criticism of China's human rights record, Beijing's policies towards Sudan's Darfur region and Myanmar plus a spate of trade squabbles between the two major trading powers.

But both sides are expected to set aside their differences when they meet at the summit hosted by the Czech EU Presidency at Prague Castle and focus instead on how they can work together to overcome the worst economic downturn in nearly 80 years.

"It's true we have differences ... but the summit will be a milestone in our common journey for a new global order, ways to tackle the global recession, promote peace and save the planet," EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, told a seminar in Brussels on Tuesday.

China is confident the summit, attended by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, will "be a success and another landmark in the history of our relations," said Beijing's ambassador to the EU, Song Zhe.

"Under the storm of the financial crisis, we all understand better that our cooperation means a lot to us and to the world," he said.

CLIMATE CHANGE

EU exports to China rose to 78 billion euros (68.5 billion pounds) in 2008 from 26 billion euros in 2000, while imports from China rose from 75 billion euros to 248 billion euros over the same period.

But trade disputes between Brussels and Beijing are on the rise since the EU's trade deficit with China has ballooned.

Both side's are expected to reiterate a pledge made by the Group of 20 (G20) industrialised and developing nations to avoid resorting to protectionist measures to fight the global economic downturn and push to liberalise plummeting world trade flows.

The prickly issue of China's monetary policy, notably Brussels' wish for a stronger Chinese yuan currency, will not be discussed at the summit, but the EU "will push China hard" on climate change, officials preparing the meeting said.

The EU and China are charting a course towards a new global climate deal in Copenhagen later this year to succeed the U.N.'s Kyoto protocol from 2012.

Brussels wants the Asian industrial powerhouse -- one of the world's top polluters -- to commit to significantly reduce its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2020 through cleaner energy.

But China wants tougher targets set for developed nations and is seeking aid from countries such as those in Europe to fund any new green technologies.

"We do not expect China to make public their negotiating position at the summit, but we do expect a clear indication before our next scheduled summit in Stockholm just before Copenhagen," one official said.

(Editing by Jon Hemming)

Article Published: 19/05/2009