Courtesy, not confrontation, best for Europe

Updated: 2014-10-20 13:31

By Fu Jing(China Daily)

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Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng arrived in the lobby of the European Commission's headquarters at 9 o'clock on Saturday morning. He was led to the office of outgoing Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, who has been a thorn in the side of Chinese businesses because of his protectionist attitude ever since he took over the job in 2010.

De Gucht, 60, will be replaced in a few days by Swedish politician Cecilia Malmstrom, 46, when a newly constituted commission gets underway.

In the afternoon, the Chinese side announced a long-awaited agreement in principle: Brussels will not launch an investigation into subsidies of China's telecommunication imports into the European market. The EU side still needs to go through internal procedures for formal approval. The threat was mainly targeted at Chinese telecommunications equipment makers Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corp.

While the big picture of relations has been a positive one, the Europeans have annoyed Beijing from time to time - for example, by allowing the Dalai Lama to visit, by attacking China on human rights and by imposing high trade barriers.

Despite such irritants, Beijing has sent constructive signals. In the first half of this year, President Xi Jinping paid the first-ever visit of a Chinese president to the European Union's headquarters. And last week, at the summit of Asian and European leaders in Milan, Italy, Premier Li Keqiang hosted a special dinner for Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, thanking them for their contributions to positive relations. At the dinner, the leaders were thought to have touched on the telecommunication trade dispute, which involves about 1 billion euros ($1.26 billion) annually.

The path to Saturday's solution was similar to a pattern set earlier, in mid-2013, after both sides worked through an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation involving China's multi-billion-dollar solar panel exports to the EU. Brussels began that investigation in 2012.

Beijing was unhappy that there had been no high-level invitation to visit Brussels a year after the launch of the investigation.

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