Santer gives China free trade warning

JACQUES SANTER, the president of the European Commission, yesterday warned China that unless it allowed freer access for European goods and services, there would be pressure for restrictions on the flow of Chinese products to Europe.

Officials travelling with Mr Santer during his visit to China said that he had presented the Chinese government with a list of specific measures to improve access.

The European Union delegation was frustrated that it had not received a positive response on any of these matters.

Speaking to businessmen in Hong Kong, Mr Santer said that the nature of Europe's open market to China would remain uncertain "unless there is clear evidence of increasing and equivalent access for European business to the Chinese market".

He pointed out that China's trade deficit with the European Union had risen by almost 25 per cent in the first six months of this year, on top of a tripling of the deficit incurred since 1993.

Last year the deficit amounted to 20bn ecu (pounds 17bn). It will be much higher this year.

The European Union is China's second largest export market, after the United States, and is the EU's fifth largest trading partner.

Mr Santer acknowledged that the EU would be increasingly subject to floods of cheap exports from Asian countries where currencies have devalued and export products were on offer at attractive prices.

He said that this was part of the EU's contribution to the recovery of Asian countries.