Published: Tue, September 15, 2020

European Union tells Xi China must show investment deal worthwhile

European Union tells Xi China must show investment deal worthwhile

Pressure has been rising in recent weeks on the European Union and Germany to take a stronger stance against China on the detention of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province, and against Beijing's new security law cracking down on free speech in Hong Kong.

In a direct rebuke of the U.S., China's state-controlled Xinhua news agency commented "certain countries and political forces keep playing the blame game, clamoring for 'decoupling, ' and pulling out of global organizations and agreements. What they are doing is sabotaging global cooperation, stoking confrontation between ideologies and social systems, and putting the world in jeopardy".

EU-China relations have been strained this year by alleged Chinese disinformation about the coronavirus, by Beijing's controversial national-security law for Hong Kong and by stepped-up European efforts to protect domestic manufacturers from foreign competitors.

"Europe is a player, not a playing field", European Council President Charles Michel, who chaired the video summit, told reporters in reference to a growing sense in Europe that China has not met its promises to engage in fair and free trade.

From the EU side, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council Charles Michel are to participate in the video meeting, with an agenda covering climate change, economic and trade issues, and global affairs.

Dr Merkel said an EU-China investment deal this year is still possible, telling reporters in Berlin that "the whole thing has gotten a political impulse" as a result of Monday's video conference.

The upcoming leaders' meeting is an important move to promote China-EU relations and cooperation, said Shi Mingde, former Chinese ambassador to Germany and chairman of the China-Germany Friendship Association. "We are different social systems, but while we are committed to multilateralism, it must be rules-based".

"This is about protecting our own strategic interests", Dr Merkel said. "In the last 15 years, China has become much stronger economically - that means the demand for reciprocity, for a level playing field, is of course today very much justified", Merkel said.

The EU, like the USA, has a long list of economic grievances against China including the overproduction of steel and theft of Western intellectual property.

However, she emphasised that "there is still a lot that remains to be done in other important and hard chapters of the agreement, particularly in two areas: market access and sustainable development".

Citing a lack of opportunities in China's communications, IT, biotech and health care sectors, she said, "We see that our investors just face too many barriers in these key sectors, and for us, with market access, it's not just a question of meeting halfway, but it's a question of rebalancing the asymmetry".

During a five-nation tour of Europe, Wang threatened that the Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil would pay a "heavy price" for going to Taipei and meeting with the Taiwanese president.

Xi said the two sides should properly address each other's legitimate concerns, adding that China follows closely the recent developments of the European Union in 5G, foreign investment review, government procurement and competition policy. "Threats don't fit in here".

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