10/25/2013, 00.00
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As NSA affair unfolds, Beijing seeks greater economic cooperation with EU

As the historic US-EU relationship cools over US intelligence gathering, China seeks to fill the gap by offering itself to the Old Continent's as a new economic partner. Brussels however bids its time, calling for an end to state aid to Chinese companies and new rules for competition in hi-tech sector.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - With the United States heavily criticised for spying on foreign governments and nationals, China wants greater economic cooperation with the European Union.

Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Ma Kai today met two senior EU officials, the EU's economics chief Olli Rehn and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht in Brussels in order discuss ways to boost economic cooperation. However, the European Union wants China to limit state subsidies to its firms which, according to the Europeans, break international trade rules.

Currently, Europe is China's most important trading partner, whilst for the EU, China is second only to the United States, but bilateral EU-US relations have been strained by damaging revelations about the spying activities of National Security Agency involving European leaders and citizens.

Against this background, "China is ready to work with the European Union to set out a comprehensive plan for the future of EU-China relations," Vice-Premier Ma Kai said after the closed-door meeting.

For this reason, EU and Chinese officials agreed to a new round of negotiations on 21 November in Beijing to discuss ways of removing restrictions on European investment in China.

The European Union wants greater access for its companies to the Chinese market, and would like Beijing to drop the requirement that Europeans must work with Chinese joint venture partners.

The EU also wants China to end its system of state subsidies that effectively guarantees Chinese firms an unlimited line of credit since the latter is guaranteed by the government.

Direct hi-tech competition is also another problem that separates the two sides, one that almost sparked a trade war last May when, on German request, the European Union was set to look at Huawei and ZTE, respectively second and fifth largest telecommunications manufacturer in the world. The crisis eventually fade away but the issue remains on the table.

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