China, EU agree to fight protectionism, but EU repeats complaints

10:39 | 26/06/2018 Global Economy

Chinese and European Union officials both agreed to oppose unilateralism and trade protectionism during talks in Beijing on a bilateral investment agreement, taking a swipe at US President Donald Trump’s campaign of punitive tariffs.

European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen (L) shakes hands with China's Vice Premier Liu He following their joint press conference during the EU-China High-level Economic Dialogue at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing

But a top EU official made it clear that Europe is not fully on the same page as China, calling on Beijing to do more to make market access more fair and reduce overcapacity in steel and other sectors, including hi-tech.

Hosting the talks, Vice Premier Liu He stressed China and the EU had a common interest in defending the global multilateral trading system.

"Both sides believe that we must resolutely oppose unilateralism and trade protectionism and prevent such behaviour from causing volatility and recession in the global economy," Lieu told a media briefing after the talks.

The two sides expect to exchange lists of proposals for the bilateral investment agreement at a China-EU summit in Beijing next month, according to Liu.

EU Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said, however, that areas of disagreement also need to be addressed if China and the EU are to develop their economic, trade and investment relationship.

"It is essential that we work together to tackle overcapacity in sectors such as steel and aluminium," Katainen said, specifically identifying the industries that Trump first took aim at when he embarked on a tariff war in March.

He also urged China to prevent overcapacity in other industries, including high-tech sectors covered by the "Made in China 2025" strategy.

Last month, European lawmakers approved a far-reaching proposal for tougher scrutiny of foreign investments, partly in response to a flurry of Chinese acquisitions of European firms.

Liu voiced hope that the EU would take concrete steps to lower restrictions on European exports to China. The "Made in China 2025" plan aims to upgrade China's capabilities in advanced information technology, aerospace, marine engineering, pharmaceuticals, advanced energy vehicles, robotics and other high-technology industries. Last month, European lawmakers approved a far-reaching proposal for tougher scrutiny of foreign investments, partly in response to a flurry of Chinese acquisitions of European firms.

Later this week, the Trump administration is expected to unveil new measures to curb Chinese companies buying stakes in US firms, giving another twist to a spiraling trade conflict between the world's two largest economies.

The US Treasury Department is drafting curbs that would block firms with at least 25 percent Chinese ownership from buying US companies with "industrially significant technology," a government official briefed on the matter said on Sunday.

Washington has complained that China is misappropriating US technology through joint venture rules and other policies, and it has already announced tariffs on US$34 billion worth of Chinese goods, the first of a potential total of US$450 billion, as a result. The new tariffs are due to take effect on July 6.

Theo Gulf-times