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EU,China Leaders Meet on Trade,Ukraine 12/07 06:38

   A top European Union official told Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday 
that China and the EU must address both the imbalances in their trading 
relationship and Russian aggression against Ukraine.

   BEIJING (AP) -- A top European Union official told Chinese leader Xi Jinping 
on Thursday that China and the EU must address both the imbalances in their 
trading relationship and Russian aggression against Ukraine.

   The two are divided on both issues. European Commission President Ursula von 
der Leyen, meeting Xi in the Chinese capital, said they need to manage their 
differences responsibly.

   "China is the EU's most important trading partner," von der Leyen said in 
opening remarks posted on the commission's website. "But there are clear 
imbalances and differences that we must address."

   Xi said that China and the EU should handle their differences through 
dialogue, and pushed back against what his government sees as a shift in 
European policy on China toward a more strident and competitive approach.

   The two sides "should not regard each other as rivals because of different 
systems, reduce cooperation because of competition, and confront each other 
because of differences," he said, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

   The meeting comes a day after EU member Italy announced it was withdrawing 
from Xi's signature "Belt and Road" initiative that aims to build a global 
network of Chinese-financed roads, ports and power plants.

   Italy became the first G7 country to sign on to the initiative in 2019, when 
the government at the time promoted it as a way of increasing trade with China 
while getting investments in major infrastructure projects.

   Neither outcome materialized. In the intervening years, Italy's trade 
deficit with China has ballooned from 20 billion euros to 48 billion euros 
($21.5 billion to $51.8 billion.)

   Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin defended the initiative and 
appeared to imply that Italy had been influenced by forces hostile to China.

   "China firmly opposes smearing and undermining cooperation in building the 
Belt and Road and opposes stoking bloc confrontation and divisions" Wang said 
at a daily briefing Thursday.

   After nearly three years of self-imposed isolation during the COVID-19 
pandemic that took a heavy toll on its economy, and having adopted an assertive 
foreign policy that seeks to challenge the U.S.-led world order, China now 
appears to be taking a slightly more moderate tone.

   Xi held four hours of talks with U.S. President Joe Biden last month in 
California in their first face-to-face meeting in a year, with the leaders 
vowing to stabilize their fraught relationship.

   Von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the president of the EU Council, met Xi in 
the morning and were meeting with China's No. 2 leader, Premier Li Qiang, later 
in the day. Von der Leyen, as commission president, heads the day-to-day 
business of the EU, while Michel chairs the summits of EU leaders.

   The talks were "candid, frank, in-depth and constructive," Wang Lutong, 
director general of the Foreign Ministry's European Department, told reporters 
following the meetings. He repeated China's call for an immediate cease-fire in 
Ukraine and the opening of talks between Western leaders and Russian President 
Vladimir Putin.

   Dialogue on human rights, economic cooperation, people-to-people exchanges, 
open trade, the environment, food security and China's claim to Taiwan were 
also discussed, Wang said.

   The European Union is calling on China to improve market access for products 
from its 27 member countries to address an annual trade imbalance of more than 
$200 billion. China exported $458.5 billion worth of goods to the EU in the 
first 11 months of this year and imported $257.8 billion, according to Chinese 
customs data released Thursday.

   The EU has angered China by launching an investigation into the latter's 
subsidies for electric vehicles to determine whether they give manufacturers in 
China an unfair competitive advantage in European markets.

   "China has never deliberately pursued a trade surplus," spokesperson Wang 
said ahead of the summit. He noted recent import and supply chain expos that he 
said encourage foreign companies to sell to the Chinese market of 1.4 billion 

   Wang also took aim at possible EU restrictions on technology exports to 
China. "I'm afraid it's unreasonable if the EU imposes strict restrictions on 
the export of high-tech products to China while expecting a significant 
increase in exports to China," he said.

   The EU is looking for better market access for a range of products including 
cosmetics, infant formula, wine and other alcoholic beverages.

   China has angered the EU by taking a neutral stance in what most European 
countries see as a Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. The EU is calling 
on China to use its influence with Russia to end the invasion, ensure that 
exports from or via China are not aiding Russia's war effort and support 
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's peace formula.

   Von der Leyen said the EU and China have global responsibilities as major 
powers and a shared interest in peace and security.

   "That is why it is essential to put an end to the Russian aggression against 
Ukraine and establish a just and lasting peace consistent with the U.N. 
Charter," she said.

   Xi said China and the EU should promote political settlements of 
international hot-spot issues, according to CCTV, which did not include any 
specific mention of the wars in Ukraine or Gaza.

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