Huge trade relations are at stake as China and the EU meet to discuss Russia

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Huge trade relations are at stake as China and the EU meet to discuss Russia


At the virtual EU-China summit, Beijing is expected to face pressure from one of its main trading partners over the war in Ukraine, which will be the main focus of the talks, according to the European Union. Chinese President Xi Jingping and Premier Li Keqiang will also discuss trade ties, human rights and climate change with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen.

“Senior EU officials have tried unsuccessfully to persuade Beijing to push Moscow towards deescalation,” Eurasia Group experts wrote in a statement Tuesday. “[They] now he will try to enlist Xi, but the feeling in Brussels is that China is not interested in putting pressure on Russia. “

The divergence over the Russia-Ukraine crisis stands in contrast to the economic ties between China and Europe, which deepened during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s a look at how things stand and what’s at stake.

What’s on the table

China refrained from voting on a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, worrying many in the West.

“How China handles this conflict will have an impact on the overall future of EU-China relations,” Reinhard Butikofer, head of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with China before the summit, told reporters.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel in Brussels on 25 March.
In a statement, EU leaders said they will focus “on the international community’s commitment to supporting Ukraine, the dramatic humanitarian crisis created by Russian aggression, its destabilizing nature for the international order and its inherent nature. global impact “.

China acknowledged the tension in the room but rejected any allegations of wrongdoing.

“The current international situation is unstable,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Beijing has already urged the United States – which, together with the European Union, has imposed severe sanctions against Moscow, in order not to undermine its “legitimate rights and interests”, adding that China and Russia “would continue to conduct normal commercial economic cooperation”.

China has long sought to create a wedge between the United States and the European Union, with state officials and media often stressing the blockade’s importance for “strategic autonomy” from Washington.

An excellent business partner

Despite the pressure, China and the European Union depend heavily on each other for hundreds of billions of dollars in trade each year.

According to EU statistical office Eurostat, China overtook the United States in 2020 as Europe’s largest trading partner for goods, with a combined value of trade reaching € 588 billion ($ 650 billion). .
Shipping containers stacked at Lianyungang Port on March 31, 2022 in Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province of China.

In 2021, the trend continued: total trade in goods between China and the EU reached 695.5 billion euros (around 777 billion dollars), compared to 631.4 billion euros (704 billion dollars) in US trade. – EU.

According to Eurostat, China was the first source of EU imports and the third largest destination for EU exports, after the United States and the United Kingdom.

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Europe’s trade with the world’s second largest economy has soared over the past decade. China experienced some of the highest annual growth rates for both EU imports and exports from 2011 to 2021, Eurostat said in a report.
However, the European Union still considers the United States its main global trading partner, taking into account the exchange of services and foreign investment. China is in second place, followed by the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

Who trades what

Automobiles, machinery and telecommunications equipment are some of the most traded goods between Europe and China.

For Europe, automobiles and vehicle components are by far the hottest exports, while aviation and electric gears are also popular.

Meanwhile, baby carriages, data processing machines, furniture and other household items are among the big Chinese sellers in Europe. Many products flow into the Netherlands, home to the largest port in Europe, Rotterdam.

As a small European country it conquered China over Taiwan

The main exporters of the region to China are Germany, which alone accounts for 104.7 billion euros (116.5 billion dollars) of goods shipped to China, followed by France and the Netherlands.

Currently, however, tensions are high on one particular, much smaller EU country: Lithuania.

In January, the European Union filed a lawsuit against China with the World Trade Organization, accusing Beijing of “discriminatory business practices” against the Baltic state.
In a statement, the European Commission said that China had begun to “restrict or de facto block imports and exports to Lithuania, or related to Lithuania”, after allowing Taiwan self-government to open a de facto embassy with your name in Vilnius.

The move infuriated the communist leadership of Beijing, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, despite never having ruled it.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted foreign investors to flee Taiwan.  Here because
Asked about the matter at the time, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters that “China has followed WTO rules.”

“The problem between China and Lithuania is political, not economic,” he said.

Janka Oertel, director of the Asia program at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the case would likely come first for EU leaders on Friday.

“Brussels will have to send a strong signal of unity to deter further attacks, implicit or explicit,” he said.

There is also little hope for a relaunch of the planned China-EU investment agreement, which had previously been shelved due to Beijing sanctions against members of the European Parliament for their position on Xinjiang.

Given the current plethora of problems, he is “a non-starter” for now, analysts from Eurasia Group said.

– CNN’s Beijing office, Irene Nasser, Julia Horowitz, James Frater, Martin Goillandeau and Luke McGee contributed to this report.


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