Hongkong, 7 November 2003 Press release

Ferrero-Waldner: "China's role in the world has changed"


Foreign Minister intensifies cooperation in environmental matters

Hong Kong, 7 November 2003 - At the conclusion of her visit to China, Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in Hong Kong today that China’s opening - apart from the economic component - also has a foreign-policy aspect. "China’s role in the world has changed, and this has consequences for international relations in general. In the past few years, China has assumed more and more responsibility in the East Asian region and beyond. The most visible token of this development is China’s accession to the World Trade Organisation WTO. This puts China’s trade relations with the other WTO member states on a solid legal basis and makes it easier for Austrian business to take up activities in the country. Moreover, China is increasingly becoming active in multilateral fora, and Austria welcomes this commitment", Ferrero-Waldner said. The establishment of a free trade area with the states of the ASEAN group, for example, will give the Southeast Asian Region new impulses and a longer-term perspective. China has agreed on a code of conduct with the Southeast Asian states that provides for the peaceful settlement of territorial disputes. And China is communicating with Russia and the Central Asian states in the "Shanghai Organisation for Cooperation" on regional problems."

"These regional cooperation agreements strengthen the mutual trust and confidence of the states involved and help to promote prosperity and security," the Foreign Minister said. In the Iraq conflict too, China supported the United Nations and hence the multilateral approach. "China - just as we Europeans - has realised that this principle must be maintained as we will otherwise not be able to solve the major problems of this world, whether they be of a security-policy, economic or environmental nature," Ferrero-Waldner continued.

In the opinion of the Foreign Minister, the crisis in North Korea also showed that China’s commitment and intermediation are indispensable to prevent a further escalation of this conflict. "As a neighbouring country, China has a major direct interest in promoting a peaceful development on the Korean peninsula. China’s proactive approach to assuming responsibility in this context, however, is of importance far beyond the region itself and for world peace in general. And we welcome this commitment."

Ferrero-Waldner views environmental issues as a further area in which international cooperation is of eminent importance. "For many years we have been confronted with the negative effects of our economic activities on the environment - air pollution, forest death and possibly climate change. In Europe, a year of flood disasters was followed by a year characterised by extreme heat and drought. I am therefore pleased that China has signed the Kyoto Protocol and I welcome China’s readiness to join us and many other countries on the path delineated by the Protocol. This is an important decision for the people living in today’s world, but above all for our children and our children’s children. Austria would be pleased to cooperate with China in this area, and a number of the company representatives that have been accompanying me on my visit have some very concrete cooperation options in mind. After all, Austria is a world leader in environmental technologies," Ferrero-Waldner said.

"Today, China and Austria have many close links. We maintain excellent relations in many fields of political and economic life as well as in the world of science. In our ever shrinking world we are increasingly confronted with the same cross-border problems. Foreign policy is increasingly becoming a kind of global domestic policy", the Foreign Minister concluded.