Thu, Jul 05, 2018 - Page 1 News List

China presses EU on US trade policies

TAKING SIDES:While EU nations share China’s concern over US tariffs, they are also wary of Beijing maneuvering to dominate global markets, European diplomats said

Reuters, BRUSSELS and BERLIN

Chinese President Xi Jinping gestures as he delivers his opening remarks to the members of the Global Chief Executive Committee at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on June 21.

Photo: EPA

China is putting pressure on the EU to issue a strong joint statement against US President Donald Trump’s trade policies at a summit later this month, but is facing resistance, European officials said.

In meetings in Brussels, Berlin and Beijing, senior Chinese officials, including Vice Premier Liu He (劉鶴) and State Councilor Wang Yi (王毅), have proposed an alliance between the two economic powers and offered to open more of the Chinese market in a gesture of goodwill.

One proposal has been for China and the EU to launch joint action against the US at the WTO.

However, the EU, the world’s largest trading bloc, has rejected the idea of allying with Beijing against Washington, five EU officials and diplomats said, ahead of a Sino-European summit in Beijing on July 16 and July 17.

Instead, the summit is expected to produce a modest communique, which affirms the commitment of both sides to the multilateral trading system and promises to set up a working group on modernizing the WTO, EU officials said.

Liu has said privately that China is ready to set out for the first time what sectors it can open to European investment at the annual summit, expected to be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) and top EU officials.

Chinese state media have promoted the message that the EU is on China’s side, officials said, putting the bloc in a delicate position.

The past two summits, in 2016 and last year, ended without a statement due to disagreements over the South China Sea and trade.

“China wants the European Union to stand with Beijing against Washington, to take sides,” one European diplomat said. “We won’t do it and we have told them that.”

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Beijing’s summit aims.

Xinhua news agency in a commentary yesterday said that China and Europe “should resist trade protectionism hand in hand.”

“China and European countries are natural partners,” it said. “They firmly believe that free trade is a powerful engine for global economic growth.”

Despite Trump’s tariffs on European metals exports and threats to hit the EU’s automobile industry, Brussels shares Washington’s concern about China’s closed markets and what Western governments say is Beijing’s manipulation of trade to dominate global markets.

“We agree with almost all the complaints the US has against China, it’s just we don’t agree with how the United States is handling it,” another diplomat said.

Still, China’s stance is striking given the US’ deep economic and security ties with European nations. It shows the depth of Chinese concern about a trade war with Washington, as Trump is set to impose tariffs on billions of US dollars worth of Chinese imports tomorrow.

It also underscores China’s new boldness in trying to seize leadership amid divisions between the US and its European, Canadian and Japanese allies over issues such as free trade, climate change and foreign policy.

“Trump has split the West, and China is seeking to capitalize on that. It was never comfortable with the West being one bloc,” a European official involved in EU-China diplomacy said.

“China now feels it can try to split off the European Union in so many areas, on trade, on human rights,” the official said.

Another official described the dispute between Trump and Western allies at the G7 summit last month as a gift to Beijing because it showed European leaders losing a long-time ally, at least in trade policy.

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