Apr.01 - Beijing has launched a diplomatic charm offensive in Brussels to gain influence in the European Union. Ciara Sutton looks at how the tone between the two has changed and what it could mean for business.
He's been in Europe for eleven days - last stop for China's President - a Volvo factory in Belgium. China's Geely bought Volvo four years ago and the factory has just produced its 300,000th car. Geely has fingers in pies at other European auto firms too. And it seems China's keen to develop its relationship with the EU as the Chinese economy slows. Top of President Xi's list - a multi-billion-dollar free-trade deal. Jonathan Schiessel is a fund manager at Ashburton. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FUND MANAGER AT ASHBURTON, JONATHAN SCHIESSEL, SAYING: "I think the net affect is that there will be a change. Quite a dramatic change in the pattern of exports from Germany. And I think it's going to be difficult for the likes of France to catch up. The German brand in China is so well regarded. The made in Germany brand really does mean something in China. I think that's going to be difficult for the likes of France or the UK to catch up on that basis." It's quite a change of tone from China. At the height of the euro zone debt crisis a Chinese official described Europe as little more than a "theme park" for tourists. Now Beijing is seeking to increase links with it's most important trading partner. And as recovery starts to take hold in Europe the balance is changing. BNY Mellon's Simon Derrick. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SIMON DERRICK, SAYING: "Would anybody be that surprised if you saw somewhere close to 7 percent on GDP at some point this year out of China. And if that's the case then demand for European goods will be slowing and then it doesn't matter what relationship German has got, it's still going to see reduced demand." Beijing's charm offensive extends beyond cars. It has a 90-strong team working in Brussels teaching everything from calligraphy to ping pong Its officials and business leaders are also learning EU acronyms, jargon and working practices. But it may not break every barrier. Brussels is still resisting a free-trade agreement largely because the playing field can never be level when Beijing subsidises its state-owned exporters.