Xi Jinping will pay in March his first visit as China's president to Brussels, as part of a European tour which will partially coincide with US President Barack Obama's stay in Europe.

Xi is expected to meet EU leaders on 29 March, as it emerges from an internal calendar of EU meetings. It would be the first time Xi comes to Europe since his appointment as Chinese president. He came already in 2009 when he was China's vice-president.

"He will meet the three European leaders in Brussels," confirmed a Chinese source.

Xi's meeting with EU leaders outside the framework of the annual EU-China summits, also represents an unconventional move. Moreover, usually the Chinese prime minister participates in these bilateral summits, not the president.

Topics to discuss at the top level are certainly not lacking.

The EU and China announced in November the beginning of talks for an investment pact, which is expected to favour access of Chinese firms to Europe, and of European companies to the growing Chinese market.

The deal would increase the interdependence of the two blocs, potentially reducing the risk of new trade disputes. Indeed, by increasing investment in each other's territory, the controversial issues of dumping or worker rights may be circumvented.

Leaders are also likely to discuss the current bilateral pending issues, starting with a wine row involving French and Spanish exports to China.

The situation of the telecoms equipment giants Huawei and ZTE is also expected to be addressed in the EU-China meeting, as the two Chinese companies face the risk of high duties on their products.

Xi and Obama  

Xi's European tour is likely to start with the participation to the Nuclear Security Summit on 24 and 25 March in the Hague, Netherlands, where world leaders will discuss how to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the risks of nuclear terrorism.

Barack Obama is also expected to participate in this summit. He will then go to Brussels for an EU-US summit on 26 March, while Xi will continue his European trip visiting Germany and France.

Xi's last stop should then be in Belgium where he is expected to meet EU leaders on 29 March.