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China backs EU recovery, seeks concessions

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- China will address European concerns over investment rules and copyright violations, but wants the EU to relax remaining trade barriers with Beijing in return, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Sunday.

Wen is visiting Greece ahead of an EU-China summit in Brussels this week, and said his country was committed to assisting Europe's post-recession recovery by backing a stable euro and not reducing his country's holdings of bonds from EU countries, despite Europe's sovereign debt crisis.

Speaking at Greece's parliament Sunday, Wen urged the EU to recognize China's "full market economy status" and relax remaining restrictions on high-tech exports.

"I have repeatedly expressed China's support for a stable euro and said that we will not reduce the amount of European bonds that we hold," Wen said.

"We have stood by the European Union's efforts to overcome its difficulties and achieve recovery."

Wen arrived in Athens Saturday, starting a weeklong trip to the region that will also take him to Italy and Turkey.

He sought to ease European concern that overseas companies operating in China face licensing-rule restraints that give local competitors and unfair advantage.

"China is willing to continue to bolster its strategic partnership with the EU... to improve the investment environment and strengthen the protection of intellectual property."

The 27-nation European Union is China's largest trading partner, and in 2009 imported euro215 billion ($295 billion) worth of Chinese goods, according to EU data.

Traveling with business leaders and eight members of his Cabinet, Wen vowed to double trade with Greece to $8 billion (euro5.83 billion) within five years, and provide a $5 billion (euro3.64 billion) credit line to Greek shipowners buying Chinese-built vessels.

He also promised that China would buy Greek bonds when the crisis-hit country returns to international markets -- giving a badly needed boost to Athens which is still excluded from the bond market by prohibitive interest rates.

Greece narrowly escaped bankruptcy in May, before it began receiving bailout loans from a euro110 billion fund set up by the International Monetary Fund and other countries that use the euro to try and curb a worsening Europe-wide debt crisis.

Prime Minister George Papandreou's Socialist government is planning to take Greece back to bond markets next year and is pinning hope of a recovery on economic austerity measures and a drive to boost foreign investment.

Wen is traveling with top officials from Chinese shipping and transport giant Cosco Group which plans to expand in Greece after securing a $1 billion concession deal last year for the country's largest container-terminal port.

On Sunday, Wen visited the ancient Acropolis with Papandreou and met Greek President Karolos Papoulias.


Online:

EU factsheet on relations with China:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/press data/en/er/116848.pdf

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