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EU, China Reaffirm Adherence to inclusive Multilateral Trade

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: The joint summit statement agreed by the European Union and China illustrates the breadth and depth of the EU-China relationship
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (C) shakes hands with Jean-Claude Juncker (L) and Donald Tusk after the meeting in Beijing on Monday.Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (C) shakes hands with Jean-Claude Juncker (L) and Donald Tusk after the meeting in Beijing on Monday.

China could open its economy if it wished, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Monday, with the European Union calling on countries to avoid a trade war even as pressure mounts on Beijing over its industrial policies.

Playing host to Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stressed the need to uphold free trade and multilateralism as the United States and China become increasingly mired in a trade dispute, with no sign of negotiations on the horizon, Reuters reported.

US President Donald Trump has warned he may ultimately impose tariffs on more than $500 billion worth of Chinese goods–nearly the total amount of US imports from China last year–to combat what the US says are Beijing’s trade abuses. China has sworn to retaliate at each step.

The China-EU meeting produced a communique affirming the commitment of both sides to the multilateral trading system.

At a joint news briefing with Li and Tusk in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Juncker said that move showed “if China wishes to open up it can do so. It knows how to open up.”

Juncker said: The joint summit statement agreed by the European Union and China illustrates the breadth and depth of the EU-China relationship and the positive impact that such a partnership can have, in particular when it comes to addressing global and regional challenges such as climate change, common security threats, the promotion of multilateralism, and the promotion of open and fair trade.

Cooperation on WTO Reform

The EU and China confirmed their firm support to the rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system with the WTO as its core and committed to complying with existing WTO rules.

They also committed to cooperating on WTO reforms to help it meet new challenges, and established a joint working group on WTO reform, chaired at the vice-ministerial level.

Later, at a business forum, Juncker said, “We need just and fair multilateral rules. The EU is open but it is not naive.”

At the business event, Li invited executives from European companies operating in China to discuss their problems.

Airbus complained about delays in government approvals that had “caused a great loss” for the company, and BMW sought its greater inclusion in the creation of industry standards.

“Let me say we will ensure the implementation of the signed contracts and we will cut the time for approval procedures,” Li told Airbus China president Eric Chen, a pool report said.

Li also asked companies to tell him of complaints they had about the “theft of intellectual property” so that he could take “great measures”. The pool report did not make clear if any companies came forward.

Avoiding Trade Wars

Tusk urged China, the United States and other countries to avoid trade wars and reform the World Trade Organization, equipping it to combat forced technology transfers and government subsidies, complaints underpinning Trump’s tariffs.

“It is not only the common duty of Europe and China, but also America and Russia, not to destroy this order but to improve it, not to start trade wars, which turned into hot conflicts so often in our history, but to bravely and responsibly reform the rules based international order,” Tusk said at a meeting with Li.

“There is still time to prevent conflict and chaos.”

Both China and Europe have stressed the need for trade differences to be tackled through the WTO, but the United States has said China’s unfair policies are too urgent and too big for the trade body to handle.

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