FILE PHOTO: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at a news conference following the closing session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee
BERLIN (Reuters) – China wants to work with the European Union on issues from climate change to trade, Premier Li Keqiang wrote in a German newspaper before a summit next week aimed at cementing ties.
Diplomats in Brussels have said that tensions over trade, investments and minority rights mean China and the EU may fail to agree a joint declaration at the April 9 summit. That could dent European efforts to gain greater access to Chinese markets.
In a column for Monday’s edition of Handelsblatt, extracts of which were released on Sunday, the Chinese Premier denied accusations Beijing was trying to split the bloc by investing in eastern European states.
“We emphatically support the European integration process in the hope of a united and prosperous Europe,” wrote Li. He said Beijing’s close cooperation with eastern European states was “advantageous for a balanced development within the EU”.
Concerned by potential Chinese dominance of strategic European industries, the EU is trying to coax Beijing to open up its markets and has tried to get it to commit to removing what Brussels sees as unfair barriers to trade.
Li wrote that China was ready to work closely with Europe in upholding the Paris Climate Agreement, supporting sustainable development, retaining the international nuclear deal with Iran and fighting terrorism.
He also said it wanted to exchange views on reforming the World Trade Organization.
The EU is China’s largest trading partner. An increase in Chinese takeovers in critical sectors in Europe and an impression in Brussels that Beijing has not kept its promise to stand up for free trade has complicated talks before the summit.
Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Peter Graff