BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union's top trade official said Wednesday that talks with China this week could help both their economies recover from the current downturn by opening up trade and investment.
"We need to kick-start our economies, fight protectionism and create new opportunities for trade and investment," EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton said ahead of a meeting between EU and Chinese trade and economy officials in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
She called for Europe and China to make their economic relationship "fair and open" and resist pressures to put up barriers against foreign goods as economies slow sharply this year.
China, the world's third biggest economy, will be one of the few major nations to escape recession this year although it will suffer from plunging exports to the United States and the 27-nation EU -- its largest export market.
European businesses are keen to get more access to their fastest growing export market -- and to see China clamp down on copycat goods that they claim cost them a fifth of potential revenues in China every year.
CEOs and chairmen of several European businesses will meet on the margins of the talks -- including Swiss engineering company ABB, Luxembourg-based steel maker ArcelorMittal, telecoms supplier Nokia Siemens Network, French oil and gas company Total and Spanish wind power firm Gamesa.
China is looking for the EU to grant it "market economy status" which would make it easier for Chinese businesses to battle any claims from European rivals that they break global trade rules by selling goods below cost.
Currently, EU trade investigations do not accept that many Chinese companies bear the same kind of costs as Europeans because Chinese government subsidies sometimes pay for rent and energy.
These antidumping probes have split Europe as some nations seek to protect manufacturers against cheaper Chinese competition and others champion low-cost imports that allow retailers to cut prices.