The European officials met Wednesday with a rising political star – as the summit in the country started.
The EU Commission is holding its tenth annual summit with China, with discussions expected to focus on economic concerns including reducing China's trade surplus with the region, calls to strengthen China's currency, the yuan, and boosting Beijing's fight against copyright piracy.
Leading the EU delegation, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso held brief talks at the legislative seat, the Great Hall of the People, with 54-year-old , recently promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of Chinese political power.
Li, an economist and legal scholar, formerly headed industrial Liaoning province and is considered a possible successor to President Hu Jintao.
Barroso is leading the talks for the EU.
Li remarked that it was his first meeting with a formal delegation since his elevation to the Politburo Standing Committee at last month's national party congress, an event held once every five years.
"China's relations with the EU date back to the early days of the European Community," Li said. "This relationship has a history of decades, and since 1975, this relationship has come a long way."
The EU is China's largest trading partner, and Li said trade was expected to reach Ђ300 billion ($446 billion) this year.
Peter Mandelson, the EU's Trade Commissioner, who issued strong words Tuesday on China's food safety problems, did not attend the meeting.