EU presses China over trade, warns on Hong Kong security law
BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) – The European Union told China on Monday to make good on a promise to open up its economy. It also warned of “very negative consequences” if Beijing imposes a new security law on Hong Kong.
After video calls with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping, the EU’s chief executive and chairman said they had repeated accusations that Beijing spread disinformation about COVID-19.
“The relationship between the EU and China is simultaneously one of the most strategically important and one of the most challenging that we have,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.
European Council President Charles Michel said Beijing was not reciprocating the welcome that Chinese firms receive in Europe.
Von der Leyen said Beijing had not followed up on a 2019 deal to allow greater access for European companies in China.
Wang Lutong, the head of the Chinese foreign ministry’s Europe office, said on Tuesday that tangible progress has been made on areas like green financing and government procurement, and that patience was needed.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic worsened Sino-European ties, the EU found itself caught between China and the United States.
Li expressed optimism about the relationship, according to Chinese state media, saying China and the EU are more partners than competitors.
But the EU wants to see progress on an investment agreement under negotiation since 2014.
EU officials say they want to see movement in areas such as autos, biotech and micro-electronics and see Beijing limit subsidies for state-run companies.
Germany has postponed an EU leaders’ summit with Xi in September, citing the coronavirus, though diplomats said it was in part because of the impasse in investment negotiations.
Michel and von der Leyen said they conveyed to Li and Xi of their concerns over the security law for Hong Kong, which democracy activists, diplomats and some businesses say will put in jeopardy the city’s semi-autonomy and role as a global financial hub.
China’s parliament on Saturday reacted angrily to a EU resolution protesting against the new law.
“We also conveyed that China risks very negative consequences if it goes forward with imposing this law,” von der Leyen said, without giving details.
Wang of China’s foreign ministry said in Beijing that “security legislation in Hong Kong is a domestic affair of China” and that it opposed “any foreign interference.”
(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field