The head of parliament's China delegation Dirk Sterckx said, "We cannot compromise on principles on human rights and the rule of law. But, at the same time the EU and China have no choice: they have to be each other's trading partners, a large part of the world's economy and development depends on that."
China trade is big business
There is no question that EU-China trade relations are big business as the EU is China's biggest trading partner. Last year alone countries in the Union imported over 231 billion euro worth of goods from Beijing.
However there are problems. Trade barriers cost European business approximately €21 billion a year in lost exports. Counterfeiting and piracy are also a major problem, with 60% of the counterfeit goods seized by the customs authorities of the EU produced in China. A report in plenary next week asks the Commission, together with the Chinese authorities, to come up with plan to fight counterfeiting.
Human rights remain contentious
Human rights remain a big concern. Recent EU activity has annoyed China, notably meetings between European leaders and the Dalai Lama and the awarding of the Parliament's Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought to a Chinese political activist. Hu Jia is currently imprisoned on charges of "inciting subversion of state power", but will be awarded the prize in absentia on 17 December, during the EP plenary session in Strasbourg.
The Dalai Lama visited the EP on 4 December and met French President Nicolas Sarkozy on 6 December, causing the Chinese authorities to call off an EU-summit that was to be held in Lyon on 1 December. In his speech to MEPs, the Dalai Lama said the EU should maintain close relations with China, but quoted a Tibetan saying: "if you are a true friend you will make clear your friend's faults".
Dutch Christian Democrat Corien Wortmann-Kool, who is drafting a report on trade and economic relations with China said discussion is key. "Europe should discuss the issues of human rights at stake via an open dialogue with China based on mutual respect and commitment to shared values of the international community and not on the basis of intimidation from one side."
Facts about China-EU Trade
* China is the world's 4th biggest economy
* EU is China's biggest trading partner
* China is the EU's 2nd trading partner after the US
* EU goods exported to China in 2007: €72 billion
* EU goods imported from China in 2007: €231 billion
- Further information :
Dalai Lama at European Parliament
The Sakharov Prize
European Commission: EU-China
Report: The impact of counterfeiting on trade
Report: Trade and economic relations with China
MEP Corien Wortmann-Kool
MEP Dirk Sterckx
Focus: A look back at EU/China articles