The European Union urged China to open its markets to help redress a “huge” trade surplus with the bloc and called on it to ratify a key rights covenant.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said after meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi she had also stressed the need for Beijing to do more on climate change.

“I mentioned the huge trade deficit that is there,” she told Reuters. “If you only think, in the year 2006—130 billion euros ($174.9 billion). That’s a huge deficit and therefore we really want to get market access.”

Yang later told a joint news conference China was keen to expand trade and economic cooperation with Europe and that there was “vast potential to tap”, adding:

“China is not deliberately seeking a trade surplus with Europe. We will try to import as much as possible from Europe and we also hope that Europe will relax trade restrictions.”

Ferrero-Waldner said Yang had raised the issue of an EU arms embargo, while she had stressed the need for Beijing to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“There of course you have all the different rights that are very important,” she said when asked if she had raised EU concerns about labor rights standards in China that many Europeans see as a threat to European jobs.


The meetings with China came ahead of broader talks in Hamburg between EU and Asian countries, at which the EU side is expected to stress labor rights.

As foreign ministers gathered at a Hamburg hotel, about 4,000 anti-globalization demonstrators marched through the city center and several hundred later clashed with police in a part of the city known as a hub of radical left-wing politics.

Police responded with water cannon and baton charges after they were pelted with bottles and stones. A police officer and a female protester were injured, and 21 demonstrators were arrested and a further 30 detained, police said.

Ferrero-Waldner told the news conference she had also raised freedom of assembly, opinion and the Internet with the Chinese.

The European Union imposed the embargo on arms sales after the bloody suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. It has made lifting it conditional on progress on rights, although France has been a leading proponent of ending it.

Yang said the climate change problem had not been created by developing countries and a balance had to be struck between countries’ development and environmental protection.

He said China had set targets for reducing emissions and introduced laws to encourage energy saving and efficiency.

“One should look at what China has done and of course we are willing to have an exchange of views about how to do an even better job,” he said, adding that China would welcome more transfer of clean technology from the developed world.

Ferrero-Waldner said Brussels was keen to see a speeding up of talks on a new cooperation agreement with China launched this year in order to deliver progress at a summit the EU hopes to see held on Nov. 3. China has yet to agree a date for the summit, although Yang referred to the latter part of the year.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said both sides had agreed to do whatever they could to exert pressure on Iran over its controversial nuclear program while at the same time stressing the need for a diplomatic solution.

“Military means are out of the question,” he said.

Steinmeier said Europe benefited from trade with Asia but sought fair competition.

“We cannot have jobs being shifted from Europe to Asia simply because we insist on high environmental and social standards here which are not respected in other parts of the world,” he told the Hamburger Abendblatt. (Reuters)