China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, is expected to meet with top officials of the European Union on Thursday amid rising trade tensions and diverging views on how to quell the conflict in Syria.
The meeting comes before a change of leadership in Beijing, making it the last meeting of its kind between Wen and Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, and Jos? Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, reported the New York Times.
The European Union is the biggest destination for Chinese exports, which were worth ?292.5 billion, or about $382 billion, last year, while exports from the Union to China were worth ?136.2 billion, making China the Union’s second-largest trading partner after the United States and a major source of wealth and jobs.
The importance of the trade relationship makes the slowing Chinese economy and the crisis in the euro zone major concerns for both parties. The meeting “allows us to discuss the state of both our economies and how to join forces to drive our economies out of their current difficulties,” Van Rompuy said in a statement issued Wednesday.
As in the United States, the E.U. relationship with China has come under strain in recent years amid concerns about unfair competition and other issues.
The situation in Syria is also expected to feature prominently in discussions.
China, along with Russia, has vetoed proposed U.N. Security Council resolutions intended to put pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to end a crackdown on the Syrian opposition. The Europeans “will emphasize the inability of the international community to mobilize” in the case of Syria, an E.U. official said.