EU: China 'Receptive' To Trade Concerns

Trade commissioner says Beijing ‘understood our messages and our concerns’ about trade deficit and product safety.

HONG KONG (AP) â€” Beijing was receptive to the European Union's concerns about its trade deficit with China and product safety despite strong criticism from the EU at the recently concluded 10th EU-China summit, an EU official said Friday.
EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson made pointed remarks about the large deficit and China's recently poor product safety record earlier this week in Beijing at the summit and an international food safety conference.
Still, the EU ''had an extremely good contact this time with the Chinese leadership,'' James Moran, Asia director of the European Commission's external relations department, said at a press conference in Hong Kong.
''China has well understood our messages and our concerns â€” no question about that. At the highest level, this has been taken on board,'' Moran said.
At the summit, Mandelson urged China to drop trade barriers that contributed to a euro128 billion (US$189 million) EU-China trade deficit last year. The deficit is expected to reach euro170 billion (US$250 million) this year. The weakness of China's currency, the yuan, against the euro also makes exports to China more expensive.
At the food safety conference, Mandelson addressed product safety, saying even 1 percent of Chinese exports to Europe with alleged health risks wasn't acceptable.
''Consumer safety is a zero compromise issue,'' he said.
Those remarks prompted an angry reaction from Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi, who said she was ''very dissatisfied'' with Mandelson's speech.
China has struggled in recent months to convince foreign consumers it is a safe manufacturer and exporter, amid discoveries around the world of potentially dangerous levels of chemicals and toxins in products like toothpaste and fish.
Asked about Wu's reaction, Moran said: ''One has got to look at the totality of the relationship when looking at questions like that. I'm not all sure it's terribly significant.''
He said possible EU bans on specific Chinese products were not discussed at the EU-China summit.
China launched a four-month nationwide product safety campaign in August and has repeatedly promised more stringent regulations, inspections and enforcement.
On the trade deficit, Premier Wen Jiabao said at the summit China has put in place measures to expand imports and stimulate domestic demand and that Beijing was serious about giving market forces more determination over the value of the yuan.
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