The European Union's trade commissioner, Valdis Dombrovskis, has emphasized the need for a more balanced economic relationship with China while highlighting the EU's substantial trade deficit with the country, which amounted to nearly 400 billion euros ($425 billion). Speaking at China's Tsinghua University, Dombrovskis also expressed concerns about how China's stance on the war in Ukraine could affect its relationship with Europe.
Dombrovskis mentioned that the EU and China are facing significant political and economic challenges that could lead to a divergence in their relationship. He specifically pointed to Russia's aggression in Ukraine as a major challenge and emphasized the importance of China's position on this issue.
The EU trade commissioner's comments came ahead of high-level economic and trade talks with Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng. EU leaders have raised alarm about the EU's growing trade deficit with China, which reached 396 billion euros in the previous year. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recently announced an investigation into Chinese subsidies for electric vehicle manufacturers, citing concerns that an influx of cheaper Chinese cars is distorting the European market.
In response to the investigation, the Chinese government has accused the EU of protectionism and interfering with the supply chain. Dombrovskis assured that the probe would adhere to established rules and involve consultations with Chinese authorities and stakeholders.
Dombrovskis called on China to address the lack of reciprocity in the economic relationship, highlighting the disparities in trade volumes between the two sides. He also mentioned that China has created a more politically charged business environment to safeguard its national security and development interests. This approach has led to reduced transparency, unequal access to procurement, and discriminatory standards and security requirements.
The EU trade commissioner cited examples such as China's foreign relations law and an updated anti-espionage law, which have left European companies struggling to understand their compliance obligations and have deterred new investments in China.
In response to these concerns, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin emphasized that China provides a market-oriented and law-based business environment for foreign companies. He assured that as long as companies operate in compliance with the law, they have no need to worry.
China has been working to attract foreign investments to stimulate its economy, which has faced sluggishness despite the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions last December.
Regarding the conflict in Ukraine, Dombrovskis noted that territorial integrity has always been a fundamental principle in China's international diplomacy. He expressed difficulty understanding China's stance on Russia's war against Ukraine, as it contradicts China's own principles.