Merkel, Macron discuss EU ties, trade, climate with China's Xi

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a video conference on July 5, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (REUTERS, AFP) - Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday (July 5) told French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he hoped China and Europe would expand cooperation to better respond to global challenges, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

In a three-way video call, Xi also expressed the hope that Europeans can play a more active role in international affairs, achieve strategic independence and offer a fair, transparent and unbiased environment for Chinese companies, CCTV said.

Merkel's office confirmed that the three leaders exchanged views on European Union (EU)-China relations.

"They also discussed international trade, climate protection and biodiversity," her office added in a statement.

"The conversation also revolved around cooperation in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, global vaccine supply, and international and regional issues."

The Elysée palace said the talks were held to calibrate positions ahead of several global meetings in the autumn including the COP26 summit on fighting global warming, to be hosted by the UK in Glasgow, as well as the G-20 summit in Rome.

On climate change, Macron and Merkel discussed with Xi the importance of ending the financing of coal-fired power stations, it said.

On trade, the German and French leaders reaffirmed "European expectations on access to the Chinese market and fair competition conditions".

With travel between China and Europe still severely disrupted by the pandemic, they said that due to the success of vaccination campaigns, "air links should also resume as soon as possible while respecting the principle of reciprocity".

In May, the European Parliament halted ratification of a new investment pact with China until Beijing lifts sanctions on EU politicians, deepening a dispute in Sino-European relations and denying EU companies greater access to China.

Indicating that the situation of China's Uighur minority was also raised, Macron and Merkel also reaffirmed "their demands concerning the fight against forced labour" in China, Macron's office said.

Rights groups claim Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps in the Xinjiang region. China contests the claims, saying they are vocational centres designed to combat extremism. In late 2019, China said all people in the camps had "graduated".

Macron and Merkel made clear "their serious worries concerning the situation of human rights in China", said the statement, without further details.

Their discussion came days after Xi hailed China's "irreversible" course from colonial humiliation to great-power status at the centenary celebrations on July 1 for the Chinese Communist Party.

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