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Fri, May 07, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Europeans, Wen stick to business on Brussels visit

TRADE AND PIRACY Europe's growing trade deficit with China and rampant counterfeiting by Chinese manufacturers top the premier's agenda


Trade disputes ranging from product piracy to rules blocking Euro-pean companies from winning construction contracts for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing dominated the agenda as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) began the second leg of his European tour.

After four days promoting political and business ties in Germany, Wen arrived in Brussels on Wednesday to meet Belgian and EU officials worried about an exploding trade deficit with China and endemic counterfeiting that international trade groups estimate costs Western companies US$16 billion in sales each year.

Wen urged the EU yesterday to lift restrictions on technology exports to China -- an issue linked to an EU arms embargo imposed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

In a speech to European business leaders in Brussels, Wen also vowed firm action to protect the intellectual property rights of foreign companies doing business in China.

In a veiled reference to the arms embargo, he called for the removal of "out-dated barriers and obstacles" hampering the burgeoning trade relationship between China and Europe.

"China will continue to faithfully honor its WTO commitments, stepping up protection of intellectual property rights and increasing the fairness and transparency" of its laws, Wen said.

"The EU is also expected to ease its restrictions on high-tech exports to China, and lift its import bans that are inconsistent with WTO rules," he said.

Wen is also pushing European leaders to grant China full market economy status, which he said would "undoubtedly boost a fresh round of expansion in China-EU trade and economic cooperation."

Yesterday, Wen was to initial a agreement that EU officials called a "crucial step forward" in stopping product piracy. In preparation since 1997, the deal will offer administrative assistance to help customs officers work together.

China recently began what it portrays as a full-scale assault on theft of trademarks, copyrights and other intellectual property in the wake of repeated complaints from Europe, the US and elsewhere.

While the US recently filed the first complaint against China at the WTO in a dispute over taxes on imported semiconductors, EU officials said they preferred "quiet diplomacy" for now.

"We don't wave the stick all the time," one EU official said on condition of anonymity, "but we are very clear in the end" that WTO obligations must be met.

Other disputes involve new Chinese rules that make it difficult for European construction companies to bid on large contracts.

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