China assures EU of good intent at Eastern Europe summits

China's Premier Li Keqiang is set to attend this year's "16+1" summit between China and Central and Eastern European countries in Sofia.
China's Premier Li Keqiang is set to attend this year's "16+1" summit between China and Central and Eastern European countries in Sofia.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING (REUTERS, CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - China recognises that there are worries about its cooperation with Central and Eastern European countries, but is not seeking to undermine the European Union, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Friday (June 29) ahead of a leaders' summit in Bulgaria.

China has courted central and eastern European states, including with annual summits, which has fed concern in Western European capitals that Beijing is seeking to divide the continent and complaints about Beijing's push for control of joint investment projects.

Speaking as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang gets ready to go to this year's "16+1" summit between China and Central and Eastern European countries in Sofia next week, Vice Foreign Minister Wang Chao said he was aware of the concerns, and gave assurances of China's support for European integration.

"Certainly, there has been some worry recently in some European countries about the 16+1 cooperation," Wang told a news briefing, adding that in central and eastern European this mechanism had been broadly welcomed.

"A unified, stable, prosperous EU is in line with China's basic interests. China's position on this has never changed," he said.

"16+1 cooperation is open and transparent. We believe that promoting 16+1 cooperation and promoting China-Europe ties are not mutually exclusive," he added.

During China's cooperation with Central and Eastern European countries, China respects the EU's jurisdiction over trade, investment and other areas and EU rules on government purchasing, Wang said.

Li will also be visiting Germany, where he will meet Chancellor Angela Merkel.

China has sought to make common ground with the EU amid both of their trade disputes with the United States.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday (June 28) that China and the European Union aim to reach accord in a number of areas, including market access, at the 20th China-EU Summit to be held in Beijing next month (July).

Gao Feng, the ministry's spokesman, said China and the EU will hold the 18th round of China-EU trade and investment agreement negotiations soon, as both sides are seeking to reach the agreement in areas such as investment condition, resources for investor disputes and regulatory procedures to increase confidence of companies from both sides investing in each other's markets.

"The cooperation between China and Europe will bring new growth momentum to the world economy, as both sides strongly oppose unilateralism and protectionism," he said.

He said the 7th China-EU High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue held in Beijing on June 25 laid a solid foundation for the upcoming 20th China-EU Summit.

He said a number of agreements in global economic governance, the multilateral trading system, digital economy, climate and environment were reached during the dialogue.

Wider EU-China summits have become more tense in recent years, with the past two meetings failing to produce a joint statement amid disagreements over the South China Sea and trade.

While the EU shares many of the same concerns as Washington over market access, intellectual property rights and forced technology transfers, it has not joined with the US in threatening punitive unilateral tariffs.