Tuesday, June 26, 2018

China, EU Oppose Unilateralism, Protectionism
By Wang Cong
Global Times
2018/6/25 21:58:39

High-level talks focus on bilateral investment deal, cooperation

A Chinese worker watches a container of China Railway Express being loaded onto a train at a railway station in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province in January. Photo: IC

Top Chinese and EU officials said on Monday that they oppose unilateralism and trade protectionism, offering a clear rebuttal of punitive US tariffs on European and Chinese goods and vowing a joint defense of the multilateral trade system.

At a joint press conference held in Beijing, which followed a high-level economic dialogue, Chinese and EU officials criticized trade protectionist measures from the US, without specifically naming it.

"The Dialogue was held against a very special backdrop when unilateralism and trade protectionism is on the rise and tensions appear in the economic relations between major countries," said Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.

"Both sides agreed to firmly oppose unilateralism and protectionism and prevent such practices from impacting the world economy or even dragging the world economy into recession," Liu said, "the two sides are also committed to defending the multilateral trading system."

EU Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen, who led the EU delegation at the dialogue, agreed with Liu.

"Our shared focus is to show support for the [WTO rules-based] multilateral trade system. We have talked extensively about this but we need more than just talk," said Katainen, noting that China and the EU together account for one-third of the global economy and cooperation is necessary under the current "complicated environment."

Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times Monday that the dialogue is significant for China and the EU, and the two have many potential areas for cooperation in the future.

"Looking at the larger picture, the two could cooperate under the framework of the Belt and Road initiative. In terms of different countries, for example, with France, we can cooperate in areas like aerospace and nuclear power. With Germany, we can work together in advanced manufacturing and car production," Bai explained.

Bai said that since China and EU are both under pressure from the Trump administration, the two could work collectively to fight against the US.

While both China and the EU have been targeted by the US in terms of  punitive tariffs, and both have vowed to retaliate, there is a fundamental difference in how the two are targeted, said Chen Fengying, an expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

She told the Global Times that the EU is only facing tariffs on steel, aluminum and potentially car exports and the US is only seeking to bring down its trade deficit with the EU, while China is facing a much bigger problem with the US seeking to undermine China's long-term development.

"Addressing a trade deficit of a little more than $100 billon is very simple. What China faces is much bigger and longer-term," she said. "We have to be clear in our minds that the EU will not come to China's defense against the US. On some issues regarding China, they are even with the US."

There are also major differences between China and the EU. The EU has long criticized China's alleged market access restrictions and industrial policies, which is also a target of US criticism.

China, for its part, has voiced concern over the EU's restrictions on exports to China and rising scrutiny of Chinese investments.

Officials said that they had candid, pragmatic talks about these issues at the dialogue on Monday and made positive progress on various issues, including a bilateral investment agreement.

The two sides are ready to exchange lists of offers and conclude the talks soon, officials noted.

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