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Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Trade dominates EU-China talks
Protesters in Dublin
Mr Zhu's car was pelted with paint bombs and eggs
Business not human rights is taking centre stage on the visit by Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji to Europe.

China has a huge record of human rights violations and abuse and that is being overlooked

European Green, Patricia McKenna
Several hundred protesters pelted Mr Zhu's car with paint bombs and eggs as he arrived for an official dinner at Dublin castle on Monday, on the first leg of his tour, but reports said talks with Prime Minister Bertie Ahern focused mainly on trade.

And at a one-day summit Brussels on Wednesday the EU wants to clear the last obstacles standing in the way of China's entry to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

"Human rights are being pushed off the agenda," said Patricia McKenna, an Irish member of the European Parliament's Green Party.

Asia strategy

"China has a huge record of human rights violations and abuse and that is being overlooked."

Zhu Rongji
Mr Zhu got a warm welcome at a Dublin business breakfast
In his post-dinner address, Mr Ahern praised China's move towards economic liberalisation, and identified Mr Zhu as the "principal architect" of the reforms.

However, he said earlier that he had raised human rights issues, including Tibet and the Falun Gong, in his talks with the Chinese premier.

He added that Mr Zhu had promised to investigate the case of Zhao Ming, a former Trinity College student and member of Falun Gong, detained in a Chinese labour camp for the last year.

Mr Ahern made the first visit by an Irish leader to China in 1998 in pursuit of his government's "Asia strategy", which is aimed at focusing Irish businesses on the potential of the Chinese market.

He said trade was up nearly 75% from the IR 131m (excluding Hong Kong) recorded last year.

China-EU trade grew by more than a third in 2000, reaching 95 billion euros ($86bn) and has kept expanding this year.

Insurance snag

The EU recently overtook the United States as China's second largest trading partner, but imports from China exceeded exports to China by 44bn euros ($40bn) in 2000.

Pascal Lamy
Pascal Lamy: Working to resolve insurance worries
Brussels believes that if it can help smooth the path for China's membership of the WTO, after a 15-year wait, this would open up the country to European goods.

The two sides reached broad agreement last year, but a snag has arisen over the insurance market, with Europe concerned that a US company already operating in China could gain an unfair advantage.

EU officials say they are hopeful that talks between trade commissioner Pascal Lamy and his Chinese counterpart, Shi Guangsheng, could result in a breakthrough, paving the way for approval for China to join the WTO at a November meeting in Doha, Qatar.

However, all 141 WTO members will have to approve the move, and Mexico for one still has reservations.

Mr Zhu is on a 13-day tour that includes visits to Russia and Kazakhstan.

See also:

27 Oct 00 | Europe
China and Europe reach WTO deal
27 Jun 99 | UK Politics
China 'stops' Patten trade job
02 Apr 98 | Asem 2
China and Europe hold hands
09 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
EU discusses Kyoto with China
15 Dec 00 | Business
Red tape 'helping China overtake EU'
26 Sep 00 | Business
China's WTO entry one step away
19 May 00 | Business
EU-China agree trade deal
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