European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso Friday called on Beijing to engage in political reforms, improve human rights and promote democracy, saying they are vital for sustainable development.
China's booming economy needs political reform too, says the EU
"Based on our own experience and the lessons we have learned from very different circumstances in our member states, without a sufficient level of political reform, growth may eventually be slowed or disrupted by instability," he said in a speech at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"China's internal long-term sustainability also depends on its ability to introduce political reform, allowing for more democracy and civil liberties."
Jose Manuel Barroso, left, president of the European Commission, meets with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Thursday 14 July, 2005. Barroso is on a four-day visit to China for talks, with trade and political cooperation expected to be high on the agenda. (AP Photo/Adrian Bradshaw, POOL)
Barroso is on his first trip to China and held talks with President Hu Jintao Friday. Despite making clear the 25-member European Union was committed to enhancing its strategic relations with the Asian giant, problems in the relationship remain, not least its 16-year-old arms embargo.
"The EU will base its decision on our own analysis, interest and values. The problem, frankly, is that the public opinion of our member states are concerned about human rights issues," he told a press briefing later.
The EU slapped the ban on China after the Tiananmen crackdown on the pro-democracy movement, and has demanded improvements to human rights before it is removed.
Cautious note over trade issues
On trade issues, Barroso said China's rapidly growing trade surplus with the EU was making it difficult to expand economic ties.
"As you know, unemployment in parts of the EU is quite high and our citizens are increasingly worried about job losses that are perceived to be caused by outsourcing," he said. "The rapidly growing bilateral trade surplus in China's favor (78 billion euros or $95 billion) makes these perceptions more difficult to manage."
Factory workers in China make shoes on the production line
The two trading partners only narrowly averted the imposition of sanctions over textile imports from China, resolving the issue recently through last-minute political intervention. However, EU anti-dumping probes on other imports from China such as shoes remain an irritant.
Barroso nevertheless struck an optimistic note by saying trade rows among market players were normal and that the EU wants to expand its cooperation with China beyond trade in fields such as environment, health and anti-terrorism.
"So far, this problem has been really minimal compared with the huge dimension of our trade and investment relations," he said.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of relations between China and the EU (then the European Economic Community), and Barroso expressed hope for the renewal of a framework agreement that dates back to 1985.
"A new framework agreement would upgrade our political relations and provide a much stronger basis for our increasingly multi-layered relationship," he said.