Blair arrives in Beijing to discuss EU trade

Prime Minister Tony Blair met Chinese President Hu Jintao today at the start of a China-European Union summit focused on boosting trade and tackling global warming.

Prime Minister Tony Blair met Chinese President Hu Jintao today at the start of a China-European Union summit focused on boosting trade and tackling global warming.

Britain holds the rotating EU presidency and Hu welcomed Blair at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing.

A spokesman said their hour-long talks would focus on issues including fighting climate change – a Blair priority – and overhauling the United Nations.

The leaders also were to discuss regional issues, possibly including North Korea’s nuclear program, said the spokesman.

Blair arrived in Beijing early today at the start of a whirlwind four-day trip to China and India aimed at boosting European trade with the two Asian economic powerhouses.

“We’re delighted to be here,” Blair said. “The strategic partnership between China and the European Union is of immense importance not just in terms of trade and the economy, but also in terms of our co-operation on the major political issues the world faces.”

Also present at the meeting were European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing.

“The regular meetings between the leaders of China and the European Union are good for enhancing our mutual understanding,” Hu said. “They are also good for enhancing our mutually beneficial co-operation.”

Blair was to meet later today with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. He was to join British-Chinese talks tomorrow before flying to New Delhi for an EU-India summit.

The Beijing talks could be marred by a spat that has held up 75 million Chinese-made garments at European ports. Those shipments were blocked after Chinese imports reached an annual limit for 2005 set by the two sides in June amid complaints by European producers about a surge in Chinese sales.

Mandelson has urged European governments to release the merchandise.

Blair also was to attend a signing ceremony for a Chinese airline’s purchase of jets from the European aviation consortium Airbus.

The EU and China were to make an announcement on global warming, including plans to work together on developing clean energy sources for China, which needs huge amounts of oil to fuel its economic growth.

Blair made tackling climate change a priority at the G8 summit in July. The group said it would engage China, India and other developing economies in efforts to slow emissions of the pollutants blamed for rising temperatures.

The spokesman said he did not know whether Blair would raise China’s human rights record or the issue of Tibet.

Among the business leaders making the trip were Confederation of British Industry director Digby Jones; British American Tobacco chairman Jan du Plessis; Sanjiv Ahuja, chief executive of the Orange mobile phone group; Simon Robertson, chairman of Rolls-Royce PLC; and Martin Sorrell, chief executive of the advertising group WPP.

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