Reuters Friday, 17 February 2017 502 views

EU and China preparing a summit

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union is preparing an early summit with China in April or May in Brussels to promote free trade and international cooperation in the face of a more protectionist and inward-looking Washington, three EU officials said.
 

China and the EU hold a summit every year, usually in July, and a date has yet to be fixed formally for 2017. One of the officials said Beijing had requested it to take place as early as possible. China’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.
 

The EU believes China wants to use the summit to press home President Xi Jinping’s vigorous defense of open trade and global ties at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, in response to the new US President Donald Trump.
 

“With an early summit, China wants to send a message to the United States that it has friends in Europe,” said one official, who helps formulate EU policy.
 

The EU, on the other hand, wants to solicit China’s vocal support for international institutions such as the United Nations, which Mr. Trump chided and Russia bypassed in securing a ceasefire in Syria through direct talks with Iran and Turkey.
 

“With this drive by some countries to undermine or weaken international institutions, we would want to see China supporting and believing in the United Nations, the World Trade Organization,” a second EU official said.
 

The European Union is still cautious about the direction of its second-largest trading partner, concerned by China’s massive steel exports, its militarization of islands in the South China Sea and a turn towards greater authoritarianism under Mr. Xi.
 

But while Mr. Trump has praised Britain’s decision to leave the 28-nation EU – an unprecedented setback for the bloc – China has repeatedly said it wanted to see a strong, stable and united Europe and has looked on nervously since the Brexit vote.
 

“We want a multi-polar world and the EU plays a very important part in that,” said a source in Beijing familiar with China’s thinking towards the EU.

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