EU and Chinese leaders meet face-to-face after a four-year break

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel had arrived in Beijing.

Relations with China are important for Europe, and it has been decided to carefully balance them – Europe does not want to separate its economy from China, but to reduce risks, that is, Europe is not ready to follow the demands of the US for breaking relations with China.

China, which sees Europe as an important export market, raised concerns about trade protectionism and “de-risking”, an EU initiative to reduce its dependence on any country, but mainly China, for important raw materials and products.

The EU, which sees imports from China as a potential threat to businesses and jobs, has put pressure on China over its large trade surplus with Europe and de facto support for Russia in its war in Ukraine.

Europe protests against unfair competition

Chinese President Xi Jinping, meeting with EU leaders, did not really respond to European efforts to reduce risk and instead called China a partner for Europe in the trade and technology sectors – areas where the US restricts exports to its biggest rival China.

After the meeting, representatives of China and the EU held separate press conferences, and the assessment of the relationship between the two sides differs.

“In the current international environment of increasing turbulence, Sino-EU relations have strategic importance and global influence – they affect peace, stability and prosperity in the world. Both sides are responsible for jointly providing the world with greater stability and impetus for development,” said the Chinese Foreign Ministry. the representative of the ministry, Vans Wenbins.

Von der Leyen also allowed herself more critical words. “The political leaders of Europe will not tolerate our industrial base being undermined by unfair competition. But I am glad that we agreed with President Xi that trade between us must be balanced.”

“We have a complicated relationship with China, which deserves open discussions,” the EC president admitted.

Concerns about the use of forced labour

Just a day before the summit, China rejected von der Leyen’s complaint about the EU’s trade deficit with China, saying the EU itself was responsible for the trade imbalance, as it had itself suspended company exports to China.

Trade relations between the two are also complicated by the latest report, which reveals that Europe’s biggest clothing brands (Ralph Lauren, Burberry, Zara and its parent company Inditex) are at risk of sourcing products made using forced Uyghur labor.

The Xinjiang region, where the Uighurs live, produces about 23% of the world’s cotton. The EU is also currently discussing a proposal to ban products produced with forced labor from entering the EU market.

Also, the EU is targeting around 13 Chinese-based companies involved in the supply of dual-use goods to Russia.

The President of the European Council has demanded that Beijing immediately examine this “list of companies”, as Europe could decide next week whether to impose sanctions on these Chinese companies.

“We reiterated that China should not supply military goods to Russia. And we reiterated the importance of China’s actions to prevent Russia from circumventing the sanctions,” Michel said.

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