Published: 11:26, February 20, 2024 | Updated: 11:26, February 20, 2024
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Panda program continues to boost China-Spain ties
By Zhang Yunbi

Giant panda twins are seen at Madrid Zoo Aquarium in Madrid, Spain, on March 21, 2022. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

China will send another pair of young giant pandas to Spain after the present panda family returns, Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced on Sunday at a joint news conference after his meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares in Cordoba.

During the news conference, Wang mentioned how a nursery rhyme about giant pandas, created by a Spanish singer, has inspired generations of Spanish children.

"Pandas are the messengers of friendship between the two peoples", and China will keep afloat this bond over pandas spanning more than 40 years between the two nations, he said.

The senior Chinese diplomat kicked off his visit to Spain after attending the 60th Munich Security Conference in Germany, and France will be the last stop of his Europe tour.

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Currently, China is Spain's top trading partner outside the European Union, while Spain is China's fifth largest trading partner within the EU.

During their talks, the two foreign ministers reached consensuses on matters such as visa and trade facilitation. Madrid highly appreciated Beijing's granting of visa-free access to Spanish citizens, and its show of trust in and friendship with Madrid.

Wang said that Madrid will also "actively advance the simplification of procedures for Chinese tourists to go to Spain".

The two sides agreed to strengthen pragmatic cooperation in fields such as telecommunications, medical care, electric vehicles and green energy, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Speaking to reporters, Wang said the two countries are willing to expand new areas of cooperation such as the digital economy, "provide each other's enterprises with a fair, just and nondiscriminatory business environment", and further boost the quality and resilience of two-way investment.

China has announced the lifting of restrictions on Spain's exports of boneless beef under the age of 30 months to the country.

Last year, annual bilateral trade in commodities exceeded $50 billion for the first time.

Albares said his country is ready to activate bilateral cooperation mechanisms and deepen practical cooperation with China.

The two countries celebrated the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic relations last year, and next year marks the 20th anniversary of their comprehensive strategic partnership.

Spain has consistently pursued the one-China policy and is willing to maintain high-level exchanges, further activate bilateral cooperation mechanisms and deepen practical cooperation, Albares said.

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Wang defined Spain as a major country "with significant international and regional influence", and said that Beijing is willing to work with Madrid to make their relations stand at the forefront of China-Europe ties.

China appreciated the contribution made by Spain under its EU presidency in the second half of last year toward boosting China-EU contacts and cooperation.

Wang said that China "hopes and believes that Spain will continue to play a positive role in the EU", and the two sides are willing to promote joint efforts to tackle global challenges such as climate change, food security and public health.