I believe that over the years the EU has played an important role on the international stage and that, with the passage of time, its role will become even more important. We value our relations with Europe highly. We attach importance to developing not only our relations with Europe as a whole but also our relations with individual member states.
In recent years the China-EU relationship has moved on the whole in a positive direction. We have enjoyed much success in practical cooperation in various fields. The EU is China's largest trading partner. Last year, two-way trade exceeded $360 billion. We now have nearly 200,000 students studying in European countries.
That said, of course it is impossible to avoid all differences as we develop our relationship. China and the EU have different cultural heritages, historical backgrounds, stages of development and social systems. So it is only natural that we will have divergent views and differences over some issues.
What is important is to handle differences appropriately through consultations on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, and highlight commonalities in a wide range of areas. I believe the China-EU relationship will improve day after day, month after month and year after year. This marks the 3 5th anniversary of diplomatic relations bet ween China and the EU.
The China-EU relationship is a mature relationship. Many European leaders and European citizens will come to the Shanghai World Expo and will be warmly received. We are also considering visits to European countries by major Chinese s tate leaders this year. The two sides should work together to add to the momentum of improvement and development in China-EU relations since last year.
The two sides should work jointly to enrich the comprehensive strategic partnership further. We should work together to enhance the comprehensive and strategic nature of the relationship and put it on a more solid footing. With concerted efforts, I believe China-EU relations will make big strides forward and enjoy many new growth areas.