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Premier Li: Stable China-EU relations built on consensus on global issues

Stable relations between China and the European Union (EU) are built on consensus on a wide range of global issues including globalization and free trade, Premier Li Keqiang said in Brussels on June 2 while attending the 19th China-EU leaders’ meeting.

Premier Li told European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that China attaches great importance to its relations with the EU and supports the integration of Europe, adding that China would like to see a united, stable, open, and prosperous Europe.

Tusk and Juncker called on the two sides to strengthen cooperation in areas such as free trade, climate change, and security, following US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the country out of the 2015 Paris Agreement, a landmark global accord to fight climate change.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying reaffirmed the China’s commitment to the implementation of the pact at a press briefing on June 2.

China’s solution to improve globalization

Premier Li, who arrived in Belgium on June 1 after an official visit to Germany, co-chaired the 19th China-EU leaders’ meeting with Tusk and Juncker.

Initiated in 1998, the China-EU leaders’ meeting is the highest level political talk mechanism between the two sides.

As part of the meeting, the 12th China-EU Business Summit was held on June 2. In a keynote speech at the summit, the Premier responded to Juncker’s worry about global uncertainties, saying that China and the EU are confronting the uncertainties with a stable relationship.

Premier Li explained that the stable ties came from the two sides’ extensive consensus on important global issues.

Both China and the EU believe in the trend of globalization and agree on the need to make it fairer, more inclusive and beneficial to all, he stressed.

“It is clear that globalization has brought tremendous benefits to China, the EU and the world,” Premier Li said. “Of course, we don’t deny that some negative influence has emerged along with globalization — just like other fast developing things.”

But globalization itself should not be blamed for the negative influence, he said. “The problem is the way we deal with globalization.”

Premier Li added that the solution was to improve the global governance system so that globalization could benefit all countries and all people, rather than stopping the trend of globalization.

The Premier made the remarks amid voices of anti-globalization, protectionism and populism in the West following Brexit and the election of Trump.

Premier Li urges Chinese companies to follow WTO rules

The Premier also underscored the importance of promoting free and fair trade as well as upholding multilateral rules, saying that these were necessary for building a better globalization.

“To make free trade sustainable, it must be fair,” he emphasized.

“We need to uphold rules, especially multilateral rules. In this world we will be in a jungle without rules. China always upholds multilateral rules, including World Trade Organization (WTO) rules,” he continued.

Premier Li said China and the EU shared a lot of common ground on the issue and urged Chinese companies to follow international trade rules.

Meanwhile, the Premier said he looked forward to breakthroughs in negotiations around a bilateral investment deal and a future China-EU Free Trade Agreement.

“I believe China-EU cooperation is already at a high level,” he said, noting that the investment by German companies in China last year had increased 74 percent from 2015.

As a big country, China is opening up but it is a gradual process, Premier Li told EU business leaders. The country is also gradually improving its investment environment, he added.

There are signs that trade relations between China and the EU are improving. At a joint press conference with Premier Li on June 1, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU would fulfill its obligations under Article 15 of the Protocol on China’s Accession to the WTO, offering equal treatments to Chinese enterprises.

According to Article 15, WTO member nations should have stopped using the surrogate country approach to conduct anti-dumping investigations on China by December 11, 2016.

However, in a new methodology proposed last November on the EU’s anti-dumping and anti-subsidy calculations, the European Commission, while scrapping the “non-market economy” list, replaced the approach with “market distortion,” which many observers say remain a surrogate method.

During the meeting on June 2 in Brussels, the two sides signed a dozen of cooperation documents and decided to launch a Year of China-EU Tourism in 2017.