BRUSSELS, March 10 (Xinhua)-- The European Union (EU) will strengthen its trade ties with China in a bid to maintain its economic recovery against a backdrop of rising protectionism, a conclusion document released by the President of the European Council showed on Friday.
"Trade relations with China should be strengthened on the basis of a shared understanding of reciprocal and mutual benefits," the document read.
The leaders of EU member states are gathered here for a two-day summit on Thursday and Friday to look at a number of the most pressing issues, with growth, jobs and competitiveness at the top of the agenda.
"Trade remains one of the most powerful engines for growth, supporting millions of jobs and contributing to prosperity," the document stressed, adding that the bloc would remain strongly committed to a robust trade policy and an open and rules-based multilateral trading system with a central role for the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The leaders welcomed the positive vote in the European Parliament on the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), saying it was "a clear signal at a time when protectionist tendencies are re-appearing."
The leaders agreed that the bloc should continue to engage actively with its international trade partners. The single-market bloc said it would resolutely advance on all ongoing negotiations for free trade agreements, including with the regional trade bloc Mercosur, Mexico and Japan.
At the same time, the leaders stressed in the conclusion that the EU had to equip itself with modernized, WTO-compatible tools to tackle unfair trade practices and market distortions.
"We will not hesitate to defend ourselves against unfair trading practices, wherever necessary. We want to set the global standard for free and fair trade," European Council President Donald Tusk said at press conference after the first-day of discussions.
Besides, EU priority measures for growth, the single market strategy, including digital markets and the banking union are among the topics being debated by EU leaders at the two-day summit.
"Economic growth has now returned to all 28 member states and the outlook is encouraging, both for the euro area and the EU overall," the document said, stressing that the benefits of economic growth needed to be "spread more widely and fairly."
Uncertainties persist, however, and the leaders underlined the importance of ensuring the sustainability of the recovery.
"To this end, structural reforms aimed at modernising our economies must be pursued, public finances strengthened and investment promoted, including through the swift extension of the European Fund for Strategic Investments, also with a view to making special efforts to fight unemployment in member states with particularly high levels," the document read.