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EU Expresses Concerns Over Stalled Trade Relations With China

The European Union ambassador to China regretted on Sunday the lack of significant progress in the economic and commercial field with Beijing. Against the backdrop of the Ukrainian conflict, relations have cooled and the EU is seeking to reduce its dependence on the Asian giant.

The ambassador of the European Union in China, Jorge Toledo, regretted on Sunday July 2 the absence of notable progress with Beijing in the commercial field.

“I am sorry to say that we have an economic and trade dialogue that has not progressed, or at least not substantially, over the past four years,” said Jorge Toledo. The diplomat, who was speaking at a forum organized in Beijing, did not explain which file(s) in particular he was referring to.

This statement was made in the midst of a cooling of relations between Beijing and Brussels, at a time when the 27 EU countries are seeking to reduce their economic dependence on the Asian giant.

The European Commission has gone so far as to suspend its efforts to ratify an investment agreement, concluded at the end of 2020 with China, after seven years of discussions. This interruption justified by differences relating to the respect of human rights in the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang.

In this cooling context, the EU also decided in May to “readjust” its position vis-à-vis China to reduce its economic dependence, at a time when Beijing is suspected of giving Moscow tacit support in its war in Ukraine.

Partner, competitor and rival

“We want to engage with China, but we need progress and we need it this year,” insisted the EU representative in Beijing, adding that a high-level economic dialogue between the two sides would be organized “most probably in September”.

China is for the EU “both a partner, a competitor and a systemic rival”, underlined Jorge Toledo.

The ambiguity over Ukraine

One of the most heated disputes with Beijing is linked to the ambiguity of the Chinese position on the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. If China does not recognize the territories annexed by Moscow, it has not condemned the military intervention.

“Ukraine  is the issue that can make or break relations between the European Union and China,” warned Spain’s ambassador to China, Rafael Dezcallar Mazarredo. “It can dramatically improve them or lead them down a very negative path,” he pointed out.

This article is originally published on france24.com

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