Thank you very much. It is really a pleasure for me to be here today with you, Mr. State Councillor. It is not only a very important and fruitful meeting, but it also comes at a very timely moment.
We have a long history of relationship, 40 years is the time for maturity in a relationship. This means that we are ready to take stock of the achievements we have made, to face the differences - and sometimes also the difficulties- of a relationship, but also able to overcome them in a spirit of mutual cooperation.
We have a very strong and solid framework for dialogue on different levels, on different subjects. We have a complete understanding of the fact that we can play a joint role on regional and global challenges and issues, for the mutual benefit of our people. Even if geographically we are far away from each other, still we all know very well that global issues have no borders.
This round of strategic dialogue is my first one and is taking place during my first official visit to China in my new capacity. It also takes place on the eve of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of our relationship and just a few weeks before our summit to be held in Brussels at the end of June.
This is also a perfect moment to take stock of our economic and trade relations. From the establishment of our Strategic Partnership back in 2003, our trade exchanges have more than quadrupled.
The Summit will be the chance for giving a new impetus to our bilateral relations. With the new European Union leadership and especially after the visit of President Xi to the European Institutions last year, we have the chance of giving a new political impetus to our bilateral political relation.
It is not only about celebrating the past achievements, it is mainly – and we discussed it at length today – about expanding and strengthening our fields of bilateral cooperation, with new areas of cooperation and new steps in the areas that are already there.
We have discussed the importance of developing our investment co-operation through an ambitious investment agreement that can be at the level of our impressive economic relationship. We have discussed the need to find synergies between our respective infrastructure and connectivity policies, such as the European Fund for Strategic Investment and China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative. And our Summit in June will also be the chance of moving ahead on this.
On climate change, let me say that the European Union appreciates very much the role that China has been playing and is playing. We all know very well, and we both share this assessment, that we have to make the conference in Paris later in the year a success. This is a common and joint responsibility. And I am sure that the target that China will announce regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 will send a positive message to the international community. I am also sure that at the Summit we will be able to agree on a common approach which can contribute to the success of the negotiations in Paris and show a common stance of the European Union and China on this very important global issue.
We also discussed different concrete possibilities of strengthening our co-operation on security and defence, building on the extremely successful cooperation we have on fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden. Given the international context, we have dedicated a large part of our agenda to foreign policy and security issues, starting with issues we have in our neighbourhood.
We have agreed, as we have done in the last months, that the conflict in Ukraine can only be solved by diplomatic means, through full respect for international law, especially full respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. We have also discussed the situation in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, where the European Union and China share common interests and where our joint efforts could make a real difference.
I have informed, in this respect, the State Councillor of the outcome of the extraordinary European Union Council that we held just 10 days ago and in particular on the follow up that the European Union is undertaking in this respect: in saving lives in the Mediterranean, fighting the trafficking and smuggling organisations and tackling the root causes of migration and asylum seeking, in particular with a focus on preventing poverty and conflicts. China has obviously a very important role to play in this respect, not only as a key partner for us, but also as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank China for the extremely constructive and useful role -precious role I would say- in the negotiations we have had on the Iranian nuclear programme, together with the E3/EU+3 countries and Iran. It was an essential role played in Switzerland towards reaching a common understanding on the key parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear issue. And we have already started the continuation of that work on the technical details in order to be ready to find an agreement in the coming weeks.
Our work will continue during the evening. We will discuss issues that are of mutual interest, on security issues and internal developments, both in the European Union and in China. I am sure that we will also have a constructive exchange on human rights issues, but also on the importance of fostering dialogue with and between different ethnic groups, as well as of enabling civil society activity.
Let me conclude by saying that in the context of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the European Union pays tribute to the enormous sacrifices made by the Chinese people. And as the European Union grew out of the dramatic years of the Second World War, we are expressing all our support for the efforts made in the region towards a common peaceful future. This is also the only way to build a common respectful vision of the lessons of the past.
I am now looking forward to our celebration tomorrow, of the 40th anniversary of our relationship, in a sense of cooperation and friendship.