Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao expressed his disappointment on Thursday at the European Union’s refusal to grant China full market economy status and lift an arms embargo, at the opening of an EU-China summit in Brussels.
“We have been working hard for ten years but the solution has been elusive. I deeply regret this,” Mr. Wen told European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, calling on the EU to show “greater initiative.” The EU — Beijing’s largest export market — still regards China as an emerging economy, meaning that Chinese imports are more likely to attract trade tariffs because their domestic prices are not taken into account.
Earlier this month, the EU launched its largest probe to date on suspicions that Chinese solar panels were undercutting EU prices.
Mr. Wen’s remarks came at the opening of the 15th China-EU summit, aimed at deepening the relationship between the two economic giants ahead of a Chinese leadership change later this year.
The Chinese and European leaders welcomed the deepening of their relationship in the ten years since Mr. Wen took office, as well as the increase in bilateral trade which has more than tripled in that period.
“Your role has been essential in bringing us where we are today,” Mr. Van Rompuy told the Chinese premier.
Alongside the world economy, Thursday’s meeting would focus on “some of the most relevant international and regional issues that threaten peace and stability,” Mr. Van Rompuy said, a veiled reference to the situation in Syria and China’s territorial dispute over islands in the East China Sea.
“It is in the spirit of friendship that we are able to discuss all issues — those in which we agree and those in which we do not always agree,” Mr. Barroso said.
The build up to the summit was marred by the decision not to hold a press conference, after EU sources said it had been “simply not possible” to accommodate conditions set by Beijing.
Chinese stipulations would have only enabled 15 European press representatives to attend, and ask just two questions between them, said a spokeswoman for the international press association.
Previous EU-China summits have also denied journalists the opportunity to ask questions of China’s leadership.
The European and Chinese leaders are also due to attend a business summit later in the day.