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EU-China summit ends in ambivalence

China promised its commitment to supporting Europe through its financial crisis but rapped Brussels over its stance on EU-China trade and an arms embargo on Beijing.

The EU-China summit on Thursday ended on a mixed note, with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao promising China's help in solving the eurozone crisis but forcefully insisting that the EU should lift its arms embargo on his country.

"China will continue to play its part in helping resolve the European debt issue through appropriate channels," Wen said at a business summit following political talks with Europe's leaders.

"In the past few months China has continued to invest in bonds of European governments... and discussed ways of cooperation with the ESM," the Chinese head added.

But Wen pulled no punches with respect to the EU's differences with China over trade and an arms embargo.

"I have to be very frank in saying this ... 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," Wen also said,

It was an ambiguous end to a meeting between the Chinese and European leaders in Brussels, which had started on a sour note in the morning, with Beijing raising its various grievances with the EU from the outset.

Two sticky issues: trade and an arms embargo

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.

A Chinese man stands alone to block a line of tanks heading east on Beijing's Cangan Blvd. in Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989. The man, calling for an end to the recent violence and bloodshed against pro-democracy demonstrators, was pulled away by bystanders, and the tanks continued on their way.

The arms embargo was imposed after events in Tiananmen Square in 1989

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.

Wen's swan song

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. EU leaders praised the premier's role in improving Chinese-European ties over the past decade.

"Your role has been essential in bringing us to where we are today," European Council President Herman VanRompuy told Wen in his opening remarks. "We have reached a high level of mutual understanding and respect."

sej/rc (AFP, Reuters)