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
"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
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.