Post-Trump Side Effects: EU and China Push for Free Trade to Offset US Protectionism

Written by | Friday, April 21st, 2017

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged the European Union to promote economic globalization and free trade. Since US President Donald Trump took office, China has intensified its dialogue with the EU as it fears that the new administration in the White House could undermine international trade with Mr. Trump’s protectionist “American First” policies.

“China and the EU, as two great forces in the world, should…respond to global challenges, reform and improve the international governance system, [and] promote a positive signal of economic globalization and free and fair trade,” Mr. Li told High Representative of the EU, Federica Mogherini on Tuesday (18 April) during his visit in Brussels for a China-EU Strategic dialogue. Mr. Li also sought to stress that both China and the EU should “respond to changes and uncertainty in the international situation with the cooperation and stability of China-EU relations”.

Mrs. Mogherini added that both the EU and China recognized the need to support the World Trade Organization and “to avoid any protectionist policy or attitude”. China’s top diplomat State Councilor Yang Jiechi said that his country valued relations with the EU. “No matter how the situation in Europe will change, China will always firmly support the path of integration that the EU has chosen,” Mr. Yang said.

Beijing and Brussels are committed to acting together to respond to terrorism, climate change and other global challenges. However, the EU remains concerned 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 shift towards greater authoritarianism under President Xi Jinping.

Although Beijing tries hard to depict China as a “wide open” economy, foreign companies operating in the country complain about discrimination against them with measures that curb their access to the Chinese market. Brussels is now looking to finalize a bilateral investment deal with Beijing that should make life easier for the European firms doing business in China.

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