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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October, 2003, 13:32 GMT
Europe boosts China ties
European Union leaders have signed two major agreements with China in a sign of warming relations between the two sides.
Silvio Berlusconi of the EU and Chinese President Hu Jintao
China's president welcomed the EU leaders

The first deal will enable Chinese tourists to visit Europe by lessening visa restrictions and the second secures Chinese backing for the EU's satellite navigation system.

China, the EU's third largest trading partner also said it welcomed dialogue on its human rights record.

Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, co-chaired the one-day summit with current EU President Silvio Berlusconi, European Commission head Romano Prodi, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

'Friendly relations'

Premier Wen hailed China-EU ties as "increasingly mature and strategic", and said Thursday's talks were aimed at boosting "the friendly co-operative relations" between the two sides.

Easier visas for Chinese
Chinese backing for Galileo
Human rights
Value of Chinese yuan
Beijing has promised to invest almost $230m in the Galileo satellite navigation system, which was set up as an alternative to the US global positioning system.

The tourism agreement will aid China's newly affluent who are now travelling overseas in increasing numbers. About 16 million Chinese travelled overseas last year.

Previously, the difficulty of obtaining visas had discouraged some from visiting European destinations.

'Rights dialogue'

Mr Berlusconi referred to the issue of China's human rights record following the meeting, saying there were "existing shadows that create an obstacle" to full collaboration between China and the EU.

But China insisted that it was taking steps towards improving the lives of its people and said ongoing dialogue would aid understanding between the two sides.

"Through human rights dialogue, people will know China respects the freedom of religious belief of the general public and that it's written into the Chinese constitution," Premier Wen was quoted by AFP as saying.

"Through dialogue, one can understand that China is not only pressing ahead with economic restructuring, but also with political reform and the improvement of democracy and the legal system."

However it is not clear whether understanding was reached on another key sticking point between China and the EU; the value of China's currency, the yuan.

The EU delegation had urged it to loosen the yuan's peg to the US dollar.

BBC World Service business reporter Mark Gregory
"From 2008, GPS will face competition from Galileo."

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23 Mar 02  |  Science/Nature

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