EU`s Ashton meets Chinese foreign minister

China is now Europe`s second-biggest trading partner after the United States.

Beijing: EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Thursday as she looked to wrap up a visit thought to have included talks on trade, environment and security issues.

The Beijing meeting with Yang came a day after she took part in the inaugural EU-China High-Level Strategic Dialogue in the southwestern city of Guiyang -- a forum intended to keep the two sides in contact on major issues.

Ashton`s talks in Guiyang with State Councillor Dai Bingguo -- a senior foreign policy official -- helped promote mutual understanding, she told Yang.

Through the dialogue, "we know the issues better, and we understand better, and I think we can now turn that... into pursuing some of the issues in greater detail," she said before going into talks with Yang.

Neither side has given details on the substance of their discussions but the EU had indicated earlier they were to have included trade, climate change, and security issues such as the Iran and North Korea nuclear standoffs.

Ashton was also due to meet Premier Wen Jiabao later Thursday and hold a press briefing.

Dispute thriving economic ties, relations between China and Europe have been strained by trade disputes, with European firms complaining Beijing is not doing enough to ensure a level playing field for European companies in the country.

It has also called for more aggressive actions by key producers of greenhouse gases, such as China, to curb their emissions.

China, meanwhile, said in July it was opposed to tough new sanctions imposed by the European Union on Iran over its contested nuclear programme, calling for more talks to resolve the standoff.

China is now Europe`s second-biggest trading partner after the United States, according to the EU. China is also Europe`s fastest-growing export market.

Bureau Report