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EU Calls for China to Widen Markets

The European Union is calling for China to open its markets further. French President Jacques Chirac has begun a visit aimed at boosting France's trade ties with China.

The European Union has overtaken the United States as the world's largest buyer of Chinese products.

At the same time, the gap between what China buys and what it sells to the European Union is growing quickly. The China-EU trade imbalance last year grew to $133 billion.

The deficit has sparked anger and concern among European manufacturers. They complain that China is flooding their market with products such as cheap shoes and textiles, while restricting EU companies' access to Chinese markets.

That frustration was voiced by the EU ambassador to China, Serge Abou, who spoke to reporters in Beijing on the release of an EU report that says China should demonstrate that trade is - as the report put it - "a two-way street."

Abou said that as China's economic might grows, so does the need for Beijing to abide by its commitments to open its markets as agreed when it joined the World Trade Organization.

"China has reached the point in its development when it is legitimate to insist that it fulfill all its W.T.O. obligations," he said.

The European Union wants China to allow in more foreign companies, and to stop practices that include demanding that European firms hand over their technology to their Chinese partners.

Chinese officials did not immediately respond to the EU report or to the ambassador's remarks.

The report was issued as French President Jacques Chirac arrived in Beijing with a delegation of about 30 French business people aiming to sign deals with the Chinese on everything from airplanes, nuclear energy, railway equipment, telecommunications, and financial services.

The French leader's agenda on his four-day trip includes meeting with President Hu Jintao and visiting the industrial city of Wuhan in central China.