EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson yesterday called on China to live up to its status as a major exporter by opening its markets wider to foreign competition and playing a bigger role in free-trade talks.
Mandelson's appeal came in a speech at elite Tsinghua University as he started a visit in which he also was expected to lobby China to do more to fight product piracy. He was scheduled to meet with China's commerce minister and other leaders.
"China is now in a position not only to accept new responsibility in key policy areas, but also to show strong leadership in the WTO and the open global trading system," Mandelson said, according to a text of the speech released by the EU press office.
China has benefited from WTO membership and should do more "to steer the WTO negotiations in the Doha Round" aimed at lowering global trade barriers, he said.
"It also needs to fulfill its WTO obligations, open its markets further and commit to trading fairly both in terms of the conditions of domestic production and the access it provides to its own market," he said.
The EU, the US and other governments say Beijing has met most of its market-opening commitments but still has to make progress in financial services and some other industries.
The EU, China's biggest export market, ran a US$133 billion trade deficit with China last year.
China is ahead of other developing countries in opening markets but shouldn't be comparing itself to them, Mandelson said.
"China is a few short years away from being the world's biggest exporter," he said.
"It plays in a different league. The expectations are higher," he said.
Later this week, Mandelson was to take part in meetings on expanding EU-China trade and on climate change. He also was to speak at a conference in Chengdu aimed at attracting more Chinese investment to Europe.
In a report last month, the EU complained that European firms compete on "unfair terms'' in China, due to lack of adequate legal protections and Chinese trade policies.
The EU called on Beijing to improve legal protections for foreign businesses, stop demanding that European companies hand over technology to Chinese partners and end unfair subsidies to industry.
The WTO agreed last month to launch a formal investigation of EU and US complaints that Chinese tariffs on auto parts imports violate free-trade rules.