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Premier behind settlement of telecom dispute with EU

Updated: Oct 22,2014 7:20 AM     Xinhua

Top-level diplomacy by Premier Li Keqiang played a significant role in the recent resolution of a China-EU trade row over Chinese wireless communications equipment, Xinhua has learned.

Trade officials from China and the EU on Oct 18 reached an agreement under which the 28-member bloc would drop its anti-subsidy probe into the Chinese telecoms products, averting a possible trade war between the two trading partners.

Hours before the consensus on the high-profile case was announced, Li landed at Beijing after wrapping up a nine-day tour to three European countries, namely Germany, Italy and Russia.

During his visit to Germany, Li made a public appeal for the EU to cease the telecoms probe, which threatens billions of dollars’ worth of annual trade.

“The EU and China should join hands to oppose all forms of protectionism. We would like to actively negotiate with the EU over the anti-subsidy probe into Chinese wireless communications equipment and reach consensus as soon as possible,” Li said in a keynote speech at the Hamburg Summit on Oct 13.

He reiterated the message during his talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, an economic and political heavyweight within the EU, diplomatic sources said.

Thanks to Li’s direct push, representatives from the Ministry of Commerce and the European Commission held several rounds of fresh negotiations to seek a solution, the sources added.

The Premier also raised the issue when he hosted outgoing European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Milan, Italy, on Oct 15 before attending the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit.

A breakthrough was probably achieved at Li’s talks with the EU leaders, as afterwards Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng, who was accompanying Li, hurried to Brussels for a meeting with EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, which produced the consensus.

The telecoms dispute started in May last year, when the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, decided in principle to start anti-dumping and anti-subsidy probes into Chinese wireless communications equipment.

In March 2014, the EU dropped the anti-dumping part of the investigation.

The telecoms case marks the second time that Li has employed top-level diplomacy to resolve major trade disputes with the EU.

In May 2013, during his maiden trip to Europe since taking office, he engaged himself in a China-EU row over the latter’s anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation into photovoltaic products imported from China.

Thanks to Li’s personal involvement, the two trading giants worked out a settlement in August last year, bringing an end to a trade dispute that had $20 billion of trade and about 400,000 Chinese jobs at stake, the largest concerning a single industry.

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