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Remarks by Chargé d'Affaires Mr. Zhang Lirong at the Conference of 10 Years of China-EU Strategic Partnership

Your Excellency Managing Director Isticioaia-Budura,

Your Excellency Ambassador Mei Zhaorong,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to be here with you to review the China-EU relationship and envisage its future.

Ten years ago, leaders from China and the EU made a strategic and far-sighted decision to establish the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. What has happened shows that it is indeed a very wise decision. In the past decade, our partnership has grown beyond bilateral dimensions and taken on greater global significance.

On the political front, we have built an all-round, wide-ranging and multi-tiered framework of dialogue and cooperation guided by the China-EU Summit, underpinned by three pillars of High-level Strategic Dialogue, High-level Economic Dialogue and High-level People-to-People Dialogue, and supplemented by over 80 mechanisms. We carry out good communication and coordination in the UN, G20, ASEM and other multilateral fora. In spite of the changes in the international landscape, we regard each other as important strategic partners. Particularly since the outbreak of the European sovereign debt crisis, China has expressed support and confidence in the EU and Euro and taken actions to support its efforts in tackling the crisis and deepening integration.

On the economic front, we have a lot to offer each other because of our complementarity. China and the EU are the most important trading partners for each other. Two-way trade stood at US$546 billion last year, a four-fold increase over a decade ago. Investment between the two sides is also growing, with the EU being the most important source of foreign investment in China. Last year, China became the largest foreign investor in some EU member states, including Germany. We have greater cooperation and shared interests. Our cooperation in urbanization, energy and innovation provides inexhaustible impetus for bilateral relations.

On the cultural front, the two sides have hosted large cultural exchange events like the Year of China-EU Youth Exchange, the Year of Intercultural Dialogue and the China-EU Cultural Summit Forum. These efforts have given a strong boost to mutual understanding and friendship between the people of the two sides. There are over 70 flights between China and the EU every day. More than 240 thousand Chinese students are studying in EU countries and 35 thousand EU students are studying in China. In 2012, over 1.5 million Chinese tourists chose one of EU member states as the first stop in their overseas travels. This shows greater public support for developing our relations.

The impressive growth of bilateral relations has shown that, as long as the two sides take a strategic and long-term approach, bilateral relations will develop sound and fast; as long as the two sides abide by the principle of mutual benefit, China-EU cooperation will grow smoothly; and as long as the two sides respect and accommodate each other in a spirit of solidarity, our mutual trust will go deeper.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The new Chinese government will stay committed to a path of peaceful development and a win-win strategy of opening-up. It is estimated that in the next five years, China will import US$10 trillion worth of goods and invest US$500 billion overseas. More than 400 million tourists will travel abroad. China's development will bring immense opportunities to the EU. China and the EU are important partners indispensable to each other, no matter it is in our own development or in international affairs.

It is important that the two sides build on the success of the past decade and think creatively to chart the course for the development of our partnership in the next decade. I wish to share some of my thoughts with you:

First, intensify high-level exchanges and enhance political mutual trust. We should respect each other's major interests, concerns and development paths, and accommodate our differences. China firmly supports the EU integration process and its efforts to tackle the crisis, and place great importance on the role of the EU institutions. We should work together to make good preparations for the 16th China-EU Summit, the 4th High-level Strategic Dialogue and other high-level exchanges, so that these events can set the strategic direction of our future relations. We should strengthen cooperation in global governance, energy and resources, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation and climate change to enhance the strategic and global significance of our relationship.

Second, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation and cement our bond of common interests. We should be aware that China and the EU belong to a community of common interests and can reap greater benefits from deepening our cooperation. China's new development blueprint has a lot in common with the EU 2020 Strategy. Therefore, we should step up efforts in making the China-EU Cooperation Plan 2020 in line with our own development needs. China has made plans for new industrialization, IT dissemination, urbanization and agricultural modernization, which can serve as new areas of cooperation. We should analyze these plans together and advance pragmatic cooperation. Investment is a strong driver of our economic cooperation. China is ready for the negotiation of an investment agreement with the EU, and hopes that the EU side will get the mandate to launch the negotiation at an earlier date.

Third, boost cultural exchanges and build greater public support. Both China and the EU have splendid civilizations, which hold enormous appeal to the people of the two sides. We should implement in earnest the consensus reached at the High-level People-to-People Dialogue and deepen cooperation in education, culture and youth affairs. We should support each other's efforts to open cultural centers and host events like year of culture, and carry out cooperation in culture industry. We should speed up the negotiation on visa facilitation and encourage travels between the two sides.

Last but not least, manage our differences and handle frictions properly. China and the EU differ in their views on democracy and human rights and encounter frictions in trade. But this is not the dominant aspect of our relations. It is crucial for us to look at these differences and frictions from a historical and comprehensive perspective, and understand that development is the best solution to these issues and dialogue and consultation is the best way to handle them. It is necessary for us to work together not to let these differences hurt our overall relationship and undermine the confidence in our cooperation. The EU decision to impose provisional anti-dumping tariff on Chinese solar panels has caught the attention of the public and the international community. We hope the EU will work together with China in a sincere and flexible manner and find a reasonable solution acceptable to both sides to forestall spiraling impact on China-EU relations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

China and the EU are important players on the world stage. Greater cooperation between us benefits our development and contributes to world peace, stability and development. There are only starting points for our further cooperation, with no finishing point in sight. I believe, with our concerted efforts, the next decade will witness even more splendid growth of our strategic partnership.

Thank you.

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