Although the leaders of the world’s largest trading bloc did not specifically mention China and the United States, the writing on the wall is lucid.
On Friday, leaders across the European Union pledged to act unanimously and firmly against protectionism and called for new laws aimed at screening foreign investments in the bloc.
The moves were aimed at Washington and Beijing.
The EU leaders who met in Brussels to focus on migration issues stated they firmly supported the European Commission’s legal challenge to U.S. tariffs saying they the U.S. import tariffs on EU’s aluminum and steel cannot be justified.
“The EU must respond to all actions of a clear protectionist nature,” reads the written conclusions of their meeting.
The EU leaders also stated they would continue to negotiate free trade agreements with partners. In the last 12 months, provisional deals have already been struck with Japan and Mexico and is seeking a trade deal with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Trade talks with Australia and New Zealand are slated to begin in July.
EU leaders also showed signs that they will target those who indulge in unfair trade practices. Although the leaders did not name China specifically, Chinese companies are the primary target of EU’s anti-dumping and unfair subsidies legal measures.
In 2017, the European Commission had proposed that it should be allowed to scrutinize foreign investments midst rising concern of Chinese acquisitions in the continent.
The European Parliament, which wants tougher screening, and the 28 member states, many of whom favor a lighter touch, have agreed common positions ahead of negotiations with each other expected to start next month and last at least until the end of 2018.
The EU leaders called for a legislative proposal to be adopted as soon as possible.
Significantly, countries in the bloc have committed themselves to driving reforms at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to ensure trade is both free and fair.