Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Union’s Trade Commissioner has called for a more balanced economic relationship with China.
Dombrovskis arrived in China on Saturday for a four-day tour of Shanghai, Suzhou and Beijing. His four-day tour ends on Tuesday.
In a speech at China’s Tsinghua University on Monday, September 25, 2023, Dombrovskis noted that Europe has become assertive.
“We recognise that the world needs China, but China also needs to see that the lack of reciprocity and a level playing field from China, coupled with wider geopolitical shifts, has forced Europe to become more assertive.”Valdis Dombrovskis
“The EU welcomes competition,” he said.
“But the competition must be fair, and we will be more assertive in tackling unfairness,” he added.
“The EU needs a strong China to help the world succeed in green and digital transitions. But the EU cannot allow itself to be unprotected when our openness is abused and when our national security is at risk.”Valdis Dombrovskis
The EU Trade Commissioner urged China to address the lack of reciprocity in the economic relationship, saying “the figures speak for themselves.”
He said that China has created a more politicized business environment to protect its national security and development interests, resulting in less transparency, unequal access to procurement, and discriminatory standards and security requirements.
Dombrovskis cited as examples a new foreign relations law and an updated anti-espionage law that has European companies struggling to understand their compliance obligations.
The laws are of “great concern to our business community”, Dombrovskis said.
“Their ambiguity allows too much room for interpretation,” he said about the laws, adding they deter new investment in China.
“The EU and China both benefited immensely from being open to the world,” he said, adding that “European companies still want to invest here — but only if the conditions are right.”
EU leaders have expressed concern about the bloc’s growing trade deficit with China, which reached 396 billion euros last year.
Recently, European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen announced an investigation into Chinese subsidies to electric vehicle makers, saying that a flood of cheaper Chinese cars is distorting the European market.
The Chinese government called the investigation a protectionist act aimed at distorting the supply chain.
In his address, Dombrovskis said that the investigation would follow well-established rules and be done with “substantial engagement” from the Chinese government and companies.
Russia-Ukraine War May Drift EU And China Apart
Moreover, Dombrovskis stated that the EU and China face significant political and economic headwinds that could cause them to drift apart.
“The strongest, yet not the only, headwind is Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, and how China positions itself on this issue,” he said.
The Chinese government has tried to remain neutral in the war in Ukraine rather than joining the United States and much of Europe in condemning the Russian invasion.
Dombrovskis noted that territorial integrity has always been a key principle for China in international diplomacy.
“So it’s very difficult for us to understand China’s stance on Russia’s war against Ukraine, as it breaches China’s own fundamental principles,” the EU Trade Commissioner said.
“Russia’s war is a blatant breach of this principle,” he added.
Dombrovskis is slated to have high-level economic and trade talks on Monday with Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng.
In addition to the meeting with He Lifeng, the EU Trade Commissioner will also hold bilateral meetings with counterparts, and meeting European business representatives both in Shanghai and Beijing.