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Wen ends Portugal visit, leaving for Malaysia
(China Daily/Agencis)
Updated: 2005-12-10 06:34

The elevation of Portugal to the level of strategic partner, a preferential diplomatic and commercial status, signals the growing importance of the country to Beijing, observers said.

Britain, France, Germany and Spain are the only other European nations which have been awarded the status by Beijing.

"The establishment of strategic partnership marks the lifting of bilateral relations to a new level," Zhao Jun, director of the Department of European Affairs at the Foreign Ministry, said earlier at a news conference in Beijing.

Following their talks on Friday evening, Wen and Socrates also oversaw the signing of a dozen bilateral agreements in the areas of health, justice, foreign investment, technology, education and culture.

Wen flew here on Friday afternoon for a two-day visit, the first by a Chinese premier since 1992. Portugal was the fourth leg of his five-nation European and Asian tour, which also includes stops in France, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Malaysia.

Joao de Deus Ramos, a former Portuguese diplomat to China and the head of the Fundacao Oriente, a research centre that focuses on Lisbon's ties to Asia, said China sees Portugal as a drawbridge to the Portuguese-speaking world.

Portugal's commercial relations with China are relatively small but growing. Trade between the two nations has totalled US$1 billion so far this year, up from US$869 million for all of 2004.

Many Portuguese firms are seeking to tap into growing consumer demand for goods and services in China, often by using Macao, which Lisbon handed back to Beijing in 1999 after 400 years of colonial rule, as an entry point.

Last year Portugal Telecom announced it planned to use its holdings in Macao to expand into the fast-growing Chinese mainland market, while earlier this year Corticeira Amorim, the world's largest maker of cork products, said it was looking for a partner in China to set up a factory.  

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