Complex global issues such as climate change and rising extremism spotlight the need for close co-operation with international partners, MEPs heard today at the re-launch of the European Parliament's EU-China friendship group.

Nirj Deva, Conservative MEP for the South East and chairman of the friendship group, addressed new members alongside high-level Chinese diplomats and stressed the importance of building links between Brussels and Beijing.

He said: “The EU-China Friendship Group was founded eight years ago on the belief that in an increasingly interdependent world, the EU and China could only benefit from a deeper relationship. Over the years, strengthening these ties has required fostering trust and an evolving mutual respect, driven by the development of personal ties between MEPs and Chinese politicians.”

The Friendship Group now consists of more than 45 MEPs; including actors from all seven political Groups, and coming from more than 20 countries. Since 2006, the Group has sent more than 10 delegations to China and has worked in close cooperation, at every level, with the Chinese Government, to encourage understanding between the world’s dominant trading partners, with over 1 billion USD in bilateral trade occurring every day.

Mr Deva, Conservative spokesman for international development and vice-chairman of the parliament's Development Committee, said: “With ever more pressing global issues such as climate change, extremism and interlinking of international markets, it is now more important than ever for us to build closer relationships, based on mutual understanding. This requires, however, active engagement with our overseas partners.”

“Since the Friendship Group was founded in 2006, we have accepted invitations to represent the parliament at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and at the opening of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. In 2008, the Friendship Group delivered tents to the Earthquake victims in Sichuan, and since then have, in cooperation with the EU-China Friendship Association, set up a programme of comprehensive cooperation with the Sichuan local government, as well as with Liaoning and Zhaoquing.”

“We are delighted to have also had the opportunity to set up the World Green Design Forum, which has held conferences in Lugano, Switzerland as well as in the European Parliament, seeking to drive forward a programme of innovation and cooperation in the fight against climate change.”