Mandelson calls for closer ties between EU and Asia

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Europe should promote inward investment from China and India, and streamline its visa regimes to attract talented researchers from those countries and elsewhere in Asia, according to Peter Mandelson, the EU Trade Commissioner.

Mr Mandelson, speaking in Beijing on Tuesday to the Central Party School, said his suggestions were part of an attempt to develop a “more sophisticated” response to the challenge of globalisation in Europe.

“We need a more active public debate across the EU setting out clearly why growth in China and India is the basis for higher living standards in Europe and can create new job opportunities,” he said.

Mr Mandelson’s comments follow this week’s negotiations with China to resolve a textiles dispute, which had resulted in nearly 80m pieces of imported Chinese clothing being impounded in European warehouses.

He said the crisis had been resulted from the failure of officials from both countries to properly estimate the flood of Chinese imports following an EU-China accord on quotas negotiated in Shanghai in June.

Despite the near unravelling of the Shanghai accord on quotas, Mr Mandelson said that he still supported its maintenance, but would be reluctant to “manage trade in similar ways” for other goods unless it genuinely helped business adapt.

The Commissioner said trade barriers were about as effective as the “Maginot Line”, a system of military defences built by the French in the 1930s which failed to hold back the invading German army.

He said that such defences don’t “defend you against a threat, but only distract you” from strengthening your own competitiveness.

In response to a question from the audience, Mr Mandelson said he thought the EU could find a way to review the arms embargo against China, but that many countries in the 25-member union were not yet ready to do so.

In Shanghai, Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief said the EU was still committed to removing the embargo but insisted it would not lead to an increase in arms sales to the country.

The EU had planned to lift the ban, imposed in 1989 after the Tiananmen Square crackdown, earlier this year, however it put the decision on hold following fierce opposition from the US and Japan.

Mr Solana, the EU’s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, said the commission was still finalising a code of conduct for arms sales to China and explaining the policy shift to other countries in the region.

“We want to resolve the issue,” he said. “It [the ban] is part of yesterday, not part of tomorrow.” Ending the embargo was a political, not a military decision, he said.

Mr Solana said he expected China to help to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear fuel activities. “The leaders of China have relations with Iran, and they have spoken to them of the need to resume negotiations with the European Union,” he said

He said it was natural that China and the EU would have disputes over some trade issues given the large and fast-growing volume of trade between the two. “Mature nations always manage disagreements in a civilized manner and find ways to solve these little problems,” he said.

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