In a statement the Vice-President and EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis said, on April 1, the European Union will hold a summit with China in an attempt to diffuse growing tensions between the two.
“We know we are in a complicated phase of relations with China,” said Dombrovskis to the trade committee of the European Parliament.
Dombrovskis’ statement in reference to an EU-China investment agreement that has been stalled following Beijing imposing sanctions on some members of the EU’s parliament; China has also got itself into a dispute over Lithuania allowing Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in Vilnius.
“It is clear that some of those topics need to be addressed at the highest political level to see to what extent we can align and improve our cooperation,” said Dombrovskis.
The summit is likely to be virtual rather than in person, said an EU official.
While the EU regards China as a strategic rival in some fields, it also views Beijing as a partner in areas such as fighting climate change. It wants to bring China on board in its push to reform trade rules at the World Trade Organization.
Dombrovskis did not comment on whether the Russian invasion of Ukraine would feature in the upcoming summit, but acknowledged there was a risk that a tighter China-Russia alignment could emerge from the conflict.
“Actually there are signs that it is already happening,” said the commissioner. “As you also know, China is taking a very careful approach in this conflict. They are clearly not following the Western democratic world example and putting pressure on China. The risk is there.”
In a statement China’s Commerce Minister Wang Wentao said, it is normal to have differences as China and the EU are at different development stages. “China’s development is an opportunity, not a challenge, to the European Union,” said Wang. “Cooperation between the two is bigger than competition.”