'Tasty Europe' taken to China
and Fisheries, is to pay an official visit to China from 25 to 30
March 2004 to help consolidate what is becoming a vitally important
export market. Since 1978, EU-China trade has increased more than
40-fold and reached over €129 billion in 2003.
China is now the second most important trading partner for the EU (after the US). Whereas the EU enjoyed a trade surplus with China at the beginning of the 1980s, EU-China trade relations are now marked by a sizeable and widening EU deficit with China (€57, 249 million in 2003).
Fischler's visit will focus on the promotion of European Union (EU) quality food products on the Chinese market. The commissioner will be accompanied by a high level business delegation of executives from leading European food producers. Fischler is due to hold a series of bilateral meetings with Chinese ministers and officials from the Shanghai municipality, and the commissioner will also participate in business round tables and seminars and attend the opening of SIAL China, the leading trade fair for food, beverages, wines and spirits in Shanghai.
The EU has a stand at SIAL to promote EU quality food. The Commissioner's bilateral meetings will focus on farm trade relations between China and the EU, China's WTO accession and its impact on farm trade, relaunching the stalled WTO talks on agricultural trade liberalisation and rural development, an issue of increasing importance in China and the EU.
"The EU has a longstanding tradition of quality food," said Fischler. "China and the EU have great food trade potential which has to be further developed. My visit to China will contribute to further strengthening our trade ties. It will also enable the EU business delegation to explore new business opportunities for their outstanding food and drink products."
Europe is keen to promote the diversity of its food and drink products. The commission intends to point out that food and drink products, together with fine cookery, are a major part of the cultural identity of Europe's peoples and regions. It is part of the EU's remit to safeguard this wide range of cultures and culinary traditions.
For example, the EU protects by legislation particular product names which are linked to a territory or to a production method. Protected names are indicated by a label. Supporters of this policy claim that protected names offer important guarantees for consumers - they know that they are buying a product of a guaranteed origin and quality.
The ability of EU agriculture to produce large quantities of excellent food products, and the diversity and quality of those products, means that the EU has become a major exporter of many foodstuffs, being the second biggest exporter globally with agricultural exports worth €61 088 million in 2002.
The EU is the world's biggest producer of wine and of olive oil (with 65 per cent and 80 per cent of production respectively, is the largest exporter of wine 70 per cent global market share and a major player in other markets, for horticultural and dairy products, meats, eggs and sugar.