China tries to reassure European Union on trade amid discontent over US deal

Yang Jiechi (centre) joins leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at a conference on Libya in Berlin on Sunday. Photo: DPA. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

BERLIN, Jan 20, 2020, SCMP. China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi promised to deepen cooperation with the European Union in an increasingly “complicated” world as the bloc voiced its frustration with last week’s trade deal between China and the United States. Yang spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and new European Council President Charles Michel on the sidelines of a conference in Berlin on Sunday, when leaders gathered to discuss the civil war in Libya, South China Morning Post reported.

The discussions also touched on trade, with a major EU-China investment agreement in negotiation, and signs of discontent from Europe over the phase one US-China trade deal that was completed on Wednesday.
In the agreement, signed by US President Donald Trump and China’s chief negotiator Liu He in Washington, Beijing agreed to buy US$200 billion more US goods and services over the next two years above the baseline US$188 billion in 2017, before the trade war began.

On Thursday, EU Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan called the details of the deal “a bit sketchy”, and said it “is not going to be good for competitiveness or jobs”.

In his meeting with Michel, who took office in December, Yang said China was willing to work with the EU to “ensure the success of a series of important EU-China agenda items this year”, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

The sides have promised to complete a bilateral investment deal by the end of the year, expected to be the highlight of a summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and leaders of EU countries in Leipzig, Germany, in September.

“Strengthening communication, coordination, and cooperation between China and the EU, and jointly safeguarding multilateralism, to ensure the stable development of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and the EU, is not only in the common interest of both parties, but also brings more stability, certainty and positive energy to the world,” Yang said.

In his meeting with Merkel, Yang said China and Germany should strengthen their cooperation in the face of a “complex and changing world situation”. The chancellor told Yang that Germany appreciated China’s constructive role in solving regional and international issues.

Merkel said she was personally preparing an agenda for China-Germany, and China-EU relations, the foreign ministry said.

The Libya conference included Russian President Vladimir Putin, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, as well as representatives of the EU, African Union and Arab League. They were among the signatories to joint statements calling for more strict enforcement of a UN arms embargo in the conflict zone.

Yang said China was willing to work with the international community to continue to make positive contributions to “restoring peace, stability and development” in Libya, a country plagued by war since the former leader Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011.

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