Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming (陳德銘) left for Europe yesterday at the head of a 300-strong team charged with spending billions of dollars on European products, the government and state media said.
The procurement team, which will visit Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Britain, could end up spending 15 billion yuan (US$2.2 billion) or “considerably” more, the China Daily reported.
“The Chinese government’s organization of the trade and investment mission to Europe comes as the world economy is facing recession due to the international financial crisis,” said Gao Hucheng (高虎城), a vice commerce minister.
“It shows China’s determination to open up its market and push for the revival of the world economy by strengthening cooperation with other countries in the world,” he said in a statement on the ministry’s Web site.
Officials from industry associations in the sectors of food, textile, mining and health insurance were part of the delegation, the statement said.
Commerce ministry spokesman Yao Jian (姚堅) said last week that the delegation would mainly buy technology and equipment.
Xinhua news agency said the delegation would be made up of about 300 officials and businesspeople.
The China Daily quoted Yao as saying that demand for European goods was growing as a result of the roll-out of a 4 trillion yuan economic stimulus package that includes huge infrastructure projects.
“Europe has an obvious edge in providing us with the equipment we need,” the paper quoted him as saying.
The mission also aims to strengthen China-Europe trade ties prior to President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) trip to the Group of 20 Major Economies Summit, to be held in London in April, the China Daily said.
The newspaper said the mission, first announced by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (胡錦濤) during his visit to the UK earlier this month, would showcase China’s strong domestic demand and a determination to fight trade protectionism.
“Chen can take a positive message to the world. China, as a major trading power, has no interest in adopting protectionism,” Song Hong, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences think tank, was quoted as saying.
China has said it was “deeply concerned” over trade protectionism in other countries amid the global economic crisis, hitting out at the “Buy American” clause in the huge US economic stimulus package.
The clause requires the use of US iron, steel and manufactured goods in public works projects funded by the bill.
The EU is China’s largest trading partner, its most important source for technology imports and its largest export destination, while China is the EU’s second-largest trading partner.
Bilateral trade rose by 19.5 percent to US$425.6 billion last year, with China holding a trade surplus of US$160 billion, official Chinese data showed.