EU Trade Chief Calls On Beijing to Reject European Boycotts | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 24.04.2008
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EU Trade Chief Calls On Beijing to Reject European Boycotts

EU's top trade official has urged Beijing to speak out against any possible boycott of European goods. They come amid a souring in Sino-EU relations over Tibet.

Chinese students in front of a patriotic sign

There are worries that patriotic feelings in China could lead to boycotts of EU goods

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, speaking from Tokyo before heading to Beijing for talks, said threats of boycotts on either side only "deepen differences, create massive resentment and make dialog much harder."

Earlier in April, the European Parliament urged EU leaders to boycott the Olympic opening ceremony on August 8 unless China starts talks with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, over the situation in the province.

European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson

Peter Mandelson is arguing for a softly, softly approach towards China

But Mandelson has warned against openly confronting China over Tibet, saying the West must work with the emerging economic giant and not against it.

The trade commissioner also stressed that any boycotts would not help resolve the economic and trade issues between the EU and China.

Protests in China

Over the weekend, thousands of Chinese demonstrated in several cities to urge a boycott of French goods in particular. Carrefour, a French supermarket chain that has grown quickly in China, has been especially hard hit. The Olympic torch relay in Paris was dogged by particularly serious disruptions, upsetting many Chinese.

Protestors hold Chinese national flags during a demonstration against Carrefour supermarket and French goods

France has been a particular target of Chinese ire

European officials, led by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, are in Beijing from Thursday, Apr. 24, for negotiations aimed at improving ties and building agreement over climate change policy. Mandelson is there to launch a new High Level Economic and Trade Mechanism intended to reduce friction over China's big trade surplus.

But the carefully planned visit has been overtaken by events. Now, just four months ahead of the Summer Games, Barroso must attempt to please EU companies eager for business in China and those calling for at least a symbolic protest against China's crackdown on protests in Tibetan areas in March.

The commission president is expected to raise "matters concerning human rights and freedom of expression," during his talks, according to EU Commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger.

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