Published: Tue, March 26, 2019
Markets | By Otis Pena

European leaders press for fairer trade relationship with China

European leaders press for fairer trade relationship with China

The bulk of the new deals, worth €30bn, were in the form of 300 airplanes to be sold by European firm Airbus to China Aviation Supplies Holding Company, while the rest covered energy, transport, and food.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Monday called for increased cooperation between the European Union and China, at a time of growing nervousness over Beijing's massive investments on the continent.

Xi will also meet in Paris on Tuesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Earlier on his trip, Xi visited Italy, which became the first G7 state to sign up to China's vast "New Silk Road" infrastructure project that has sparked unease in the USA and the European Union.

"It is testament to your deep attachment to China's cooperation with Europe... and my desire to build a strong Europe", he told Xi. They also acknowledged they were rivals and there were concerns about unfair competition and continuing coordination on climate change.

Most of the investment projects of the Belt and Road initiative have reportedly benefitted China's state-owned corporations.

"If some countries believe that they can do clever business with the Chinese, then they will be surprised when they wake up and find themselves dependent", German foreign minister Heiko Maas warned on Sunday.

Xi embraces Juncker at the Elysée Palace as Macron and Merkel look on.

"Europe must be united and have a coherent message".

This year is of special commemorative significance, as it marks the 55th anniversary of China-France diplomatic ties, the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Work-Study Movement in France, and also the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, Xi said.

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The EU is China's biggest trade partner and wants to solidify that relationship.

Xi's visit to Paris was marked by protests against China's mass imprisonments of its Muslim Uighur minority and of its oppression of Tibet.

The French president also pledged to actively push forward the EU-China cooperative relations, saying his country holds that the EU's connectivity strategy and the BRI should be docked with each other.

"China will always back cooperation and development with Europe, which falls in line with our multilateral values", Xi said at the Elysee on Monday.

"Under the new situation, the two sides should do much better in those three aspects, and continue to explore the way for major countries to get along with each other, which should feature independence, mutual understanding, foresight, mutual benefit and win-win outcomes", Xi said.

"We are honoured to support the growth of China's civil aviation with our leading aircraft families - single-aisle and wide-bodies", Airbus' commercial aircraft president and its new CEO-in-waiting, Guillaume Faury, said.

The leaders of China, France, Germany and the European Union were set to meet in Paris on Tuesday (26 March) for "unprecedented" talks on how to improve ties, despite growing jitters over Beijing's massive investments in Europe.

The Europe Union, the world's largest trading zone, has become increasingly frustrated by what it sees as the slow pace of economic opening in China, even after years of granting China nearly unfettered access to EU markets for trade and investment.

A full China-EU summit is due to take place in Brussels on April 9.

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