Chinese President Xi Jinping urged more market access between China and the European Union to make them “the twin engines for global economic growth.”
For China and the EU, which have recently settled several trade disputes, “the potential has not been fully tapped,” Xi said during a speech today at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium. The 28-nation EU is China’s largest trading partner, while the Asian nation is Europe’s second-biggest after the U.S.
Xi reiterated China’s goal to reach $1 trillion in annual bilateral trade with the EU by 2020. That target represents a 52 percent increase from 477 billion euros ($658 billion) last year, according to data from the EU statistics office.
Europe and China “need to build a bridge of growth and prosperity,” Xi said. The two sides are negotiating an EU-China Investment Agreement, and contemplate a free-trade accord in the longer term.
Earlier in the day, Xi visited Volvo Car’s plant in Ghent, calling it “a model of economic and technical cooperation” among Belgium, China and Sweden. The Gothenburg, Sweden-based carmaker is owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.
In a sign of decreasing trade tensions between Europe and China, the two sides have resolved several import disagreements in recent months. In March, they reached a deal on European wine imports into China and the EU dropped an anti-dumping probe of Chinese telecom-equipment makers, though an investigation continues into possible government subsidies to the manufacturers. Those developments follow an agreement last year to curb imports of Chinese solar panels into Europe.
Xi spoke a day after Antwerp World Diamond Centre and the Shanghai Diamond Exchange signed a cooperation agreement to boost trade in the gems between Belgium and China by at least 10 percent annually over three years. Antwerp exported $3.7 billion of diamonds to China last year, while its imports from the Asian country totaled $3.4 billion, AWDC and SDE said today.
The Chinese leader is wrapping up a European tour that also has featured stops in France, Germany and the Netherlands. Airbus Group NV and Total SA were among European companies to sign deals with Chinese businesses during Xi’s trip.
In Bruges, Xi also said that China is “committed to non-interference” in other countries’ affairs, while not specifying Russia’s annexation of Crimea. China last week abstained from the United Nations Security Council resolution affirming Ukraine’s territorial integrity.