The European Union and China agreed Friday to hold summit talks after apparently resolving a bitter diplomatic dispute over a visit to Europe by the Dalai Lama. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao agreed that the two sides needed closer ties to deal with the global financial crisis and climate change. "None of them will be solved without strong cooperation between China and the European Union," Barroso told reporters after talks with Wen at EU headquarters.
China canceled a December summit between the two sides to protest talks held between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Tibetan spiritual leader, who the Chinese accuse of supporting Tibetan separatism.
Those talks were meant to address issues like slumping world trade and the economic crisis. France had held the EU's rotating presidency at the time and was to host the summit. Wen suggested the diplomatic spat was now over. "We have increased our mutual trust and that has played a big role in boosting China-EU relations," said Wen, who led a large ministerial delegation.
Barroso said Friday's talks reflected a "kind of atmosphere that only exists between partners that want to reinforce their cooperation."
The talks were the first high-level contacts between European and Chinese officials since Beijing canceled December's summit over the Dalai Lama dispute.
He has been a symbol for many Tibetans who continue to campaign for an independent Tibet after an uprising was crushed by China 50 years ago. China says that Tibet has always been part of its territory.
EU spokesman Johannes Laitenberger said a summit date would be agreed as soon as possible. The summit was expected to take place before the end of June.
Signaling a desire for better ties, Chinese and EU officials on Friday signed nine cooperation agreements. They will see the EU hand over euro60 million (US$79 million) to China to help combat the illegal drugs trade, bolster copyright protection for European companies operating in China and other projects. Pacts on fighting illegal logging and spurring the use of green energy sources were also signed.
EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton said she would also hold special trade talks with her Chinese counterpart, Commerce Minister Chen Deming, in April.
EU officials also pushed Wen to increase the value of the yuan amid widespread criticism from EU nations and the United States that the currency is significantly undervalued and gives Chinese exporters an unfair advantage.
Wen defended China's currency policy and said the yuan had "appreciated by 20 percent against the U.S. dollar," since 2005. "We believe to maintain the stability of the Chinese currency on a reasonable and balanced basis at this moment, will play a positive role in stabilizing international finance and the economy," Wen said.
China remains a key market for the EU and is the 27-nation bloc's fastest growing export market.
The EU exported goods worth euro72 billion ($94.4 billion) to China in 2007, and this figure rose 12 percent over the first nine months last year, according to EU statistics. China meanwhile, exported euro232 billion ($304 billion) worth of goods to the EU.