The 15th China-EU summit in Brussels has opened with discord. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has called on the EU to lift its arms embargo against Beijing and grant free market status to the world's second largest economy.
Chinese Premier Wen told European leaders on Thursday that although the two sides had no "major conflict of interest," little progress had been made toward resolving disagreements over the EU arms embargo against Beijing and granting China full-fledged status as a market economy.
"I have to be very frank in saying this," Wen said. "But the solution has been elusive over the past 10 years. I deeply regret this and I hope the EU side will take greater initiative to solve these issues."
European Union member states imposed the arms embargo against Beijing after the Communist Party government brutally suppressed pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989. France and Spain have called for the embargo to be reviewed, but the United Kingdom has refused to support a loosening of the sanctions.
Although China is the EU's second largest trading partner after the US, Brussels still has not granted Beijing status as a market economy. Instead, China is still classified as a developing economy, which means Chinese goods are more likely to be hit with trade tariffs.
Earlier in September, Brussels launched its largest anti-dumping probe against Beijing, on suspicion that cheap Chinese solar panels were undercutting EU prices. The EU is China's largest export market.
EU leaders praised Wen's role in improving Chinese-European ties over the past decade. Wen's trip to Brussels is expected to be his last as premier. A scheduled change in power within China's Communist Party is expected to occur later this year.
"Your role has been essential in bringing us to where we are today," European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told Wen in his opening remarks. "We have reached a high level of mutual understanding and respect."
Van Rompuy said that Thursday's meeting would also focus on "some of the most relevant international and regional issues that threaten peace and stability," a possible reference to the Syrian civil war and rising tensions in the South China and East China seas.
"It is in the spirit of friendship that we are able to discuss all issues," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said. "Those in which we agree and those in which we do not always agree."
slk/sej (AFP, AP, dpa)