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7 Dec, 2023 03:45

China downplays EU ‘trade war’ risk

Beijing's clarification comes after the bloc warned of a "growing trade imbalance"
China downplays EU ‘trade war’ risk

China has invited EU member states to take advantage of its “mega market,” responding after the European Commission warned it could soon deploy protectionist measures to guard local industry from Chinese firms.

Speaking during a press briefing on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin was asked whether Beijing feared a “trade war” with the EU, in light of recent remarks by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“China has never deliberately sought a trade surplus. On the contrary, we have consistently advanced high-level opening up and invited all countries to share China’s mega market with a population of over 1.4 billion,” Wang said, adding that “the current China-EU trade situation is a result [of] the combined influence of the macro-economic environment, international trade conditions and the industrial structures of the two sides.”

Von der Leyen voiced concerns about a “growing trade imbalance” between the EU and China on Tuesday, telling AFP that the bloc has “tools to protect our market.”

“European leaders will not tolerate over time an imbalance in the trade relationship,” she said, but stressed that the EU prefers “negotiated solutions” over protectionist policies.

The comments came just days before Von der Leyen, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and European Council head Charles Michel are set to visit Beijing for a new round of talks under the EU-China summit. It will be the first face-to-face meeting between the officials and Chinese leaders since 2019, and is expected to focus on trade and conflicts raging in Gaza and Ukraine.

Wang went on to argue that the simple trade imbalance between the two sides did not properly reflect the “profit distribution in China-EU trade,” adding that European firms had “reaped considerable profits” from commerce with China.

He suggested that new protectionist measures could even invite reprisals from Beijing. “If the EU sets strict restrictions on the export of high-tech products to China on the one hand, and on the other, hopes to greatly increase export to China, this may not be a reasonable expectation,” he said.

During a call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly urged Berlin to help scale back the EU’s trade policies and to continue to accept Chinese investments, declaring that “China-Europe relations [are] key to the stability of the world order and the Eurasian continent's prosperity.”

“[I] hope that Germany will push the European Union to uphold the principles of [the] market and fairness, and to work with China to safeguard fair market competition and fair trade, as well as stable industrial and value chains,” Xi said, as quoted by Xinhua.

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