BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders on Monday called on Chinese President Xi Jinping to open markets, respect minorities and pull out of a crackdown in Hong Kong, also saying Europe would not be more exploited in commerce.
Anxious to show that the EU will not take sides in a global stalemate between China and the United States, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has joined the chief executive and chairman of the bloc in delivering a harsh message to Beijing.
Europe is a player, not a playground, European Council President Charles Michel, who chaired the video summit, told reporters, referring to the growing feeling in Europe that China has failed to keep its promises to engage in fair and free trade.
With more than a billion euros in bilateral trade per day, the EU is China’s largest trading partner, while China is second after the United States as a market for goods and services from the ‘EU.
Chinas Xi was not part of the post-summit press conference and there was no joint statement, but the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that Xi rejects any interference in Chinese affairs, especially in Chinese affairs. human rights.
The Chinese people will not accept a human rights instructor and oppose double standards, Xinhua reported during the video summit. China is ready to strengthen exchanges with the European side on the basis of the principle of mutual respect so that both sides can make progress.
The European Union accuses China of breaking a host of global trade rules, from overproducing steel to stealing Western intellectual property, which Beijing denies.
European attitudes have also hardened towards Beijing because of the novel coronavirus, which many scientists believe originated in China, and because of a new security law in Hong Kong which, according to the ‘West, restricts basic rights.
We really want to gain access to the Chinese market and break down barriers, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the press conference.
Merkel said she and her two EU colleagues had urged Xi to make it clear whether she really wanted an investment deal being negotiated between the two that would force China to open up its markets.
We put the pressure … to move the investment deal forward, Merkel told reporters in Berlin.
Overall, cooperation with China must be based on certain principles – reciprocity, fair competition. We are different social systems, but if we are committed to multilateralism, it must be rules-based, she added.
The demand for a level playing field was justified today given China’s economic transformation over the past 15 years, Merkel said.
The EU also wants stronger commitments on climate change from China, the world’s largest polluter.
The EU and China have signed an agreement to protect each other from exported food and drink products, from feta cheese to Pixian bean paste.
Although modest, the new deal is a trade coup for Europe as US, Australian or New Zealand producers will no longer be able to use the protected names on their exports to China, although there is a period of transition for some cheeses.
Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Robin Emmott; Additional reporting by Paul Carrel, Michelle Adair and Thomas Escritt in Berlin, editing by Louise Heavens / Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Grant McCool and Jonathan Oatis
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