ROME, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Italy plays a central role in advancing the ties between China and the European Union, the Chinese ambassador to Italy said Wednesday.
"China strongly intends to boost dialogue with Europe and looks at Italy as a strategic bridge for this," said Ambassador Ding Wei.
Speaking at a foreign policy forum hosted by the Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Ding said "EU-China relations in the last 40 years were benefitting from a positive historical phase thanks to the excellent commercial, political and cultural ties existing between Italy and China."
The ambassador recalled the evolution of EU-China relations, observing that Europe today is China's greatest commercial partner and the fourth largest foreign investor with a total trade volume amounting to 360 billion US dollars in 2009.
"In the future China-EU relations are set to further increase and will become ever more crucial in maintaining world order, stability and peace," Ding said.
The ambassador said he hoped that China and Europe work closely together on such issues as lifting the embargo on arms sales to China and the recognition at the world level of China's status as a market economy.
If Europe and China have progressed in dialogue, Ding said, the merit goes primarily to Italy. Since 1970, when Italy-China diplomatic ties were first launched, bilateral trade exchanges have risen from 120 million U. S. dollars to more than 30 billion U.S. dollars in 2009. Ding expects it to reach 40 billion U.S. dollars by the end of this year.
"In just 40 years the number of Chinese people visiting Italy has multiplied by 400 times. Today' s daily exchange is higher that annual trade in 1970," the ambassador said.
Talking about illegal immigration, Ding called for greater cooperation between Chinese and Italian authorities, saying the problem must be tackled in a peaceful and constructive way.
The ambassador was a key participant at the foreign policy forum held during the two-day Ambassadors to Italy Conference on July 27-28. The event was organized by the Italian Foreign Ministry to discuss global issues and diplomacy's role in meeting the world's challenges.
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