China president sets off on trip to Europe

Beijing, March 22: President Xi Jinping left Beijing Saturday morning for his first trip to Europe after taking office more than a year ago, China Daily reported.

Accompanied by his wife, Peng Liyuan, Xi will visit the Netherlands, France, Germany and Belgium, and the headquarters of the European Union on a tour lasting until April 1.

He is also due to meet US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of a nuclear safety summit in The Hague early next week.

Beijing is expected to use Xi’s current trip to enhance political and economic ties with Europe.

The president is expected to sign several cooperation agreements involving manufacturing, finance, energy and cultural exchanges during his Europe tour.

The Netherlands is Xi’s first stop. It will be the first official visit by a Chinese president to the country after establishment of diplomatic ties in 1972. Xi is expected to sign cooperation agreements on agriculture, energy, finance and culture and is scheduled to meet King Willem-Alexander and Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

From the Netherlands, Xi will travel to France and visit the UNESCO headquarters.

He is also scheduled to meet his French counterpart Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. The leaders are due to sign agreements to boost Sino-French cooperation on energy, aerospace, urbanisation, agriculture and finance.

Xi will then travel to Germany to meet President Joachim Gauck, Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders.

Leaders from the two sides will sign cooperation documents covering sectors including industry, aerospace, science and technology as well as culture and education.

Xi will end his European visit in Belgium where he will meet King Philippe, Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo and parliamentary officials and sign cooperation agreements covering trade, science and technology and education.

In Belgium, Xi will also visit the European Union headquarters.

IANS