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China's President Xi turns to panda diplomacy to seek EU trade deal

Published on Mar 30, 2014 9:25 AM

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - Chinese President Xi Jinping will use two pandas to break the ice and soften European opposition to a free-trade deal with China during a visit to Belgium which starts on Sunday.

As the first Chinese leader to visit the European Union's headquarters since Brussels established ties with Beijing four decades ago, Xi will also seek to send a message that China is a less confrontational partner, ready to resolve trade disputes.

"Our common interests far outweigh our differences," said China's ambassador to the EU, Yang Yanyi. "We need to explore ways to deepen our partnership."

Mr Xi will say hello to China's two ursine envoys Xing Hui and Hao Hao, loaned to Belgium last month, at a wildlife park near Brussels - part of a Chinese tradition of using pandas to foster better relations around the world.

Belgium's Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo looking at the giant panda Hao Hao, one of two pandas that arrive in Belgium in Feb 2014. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
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