China-EU relations

EU and Chinese foreign ministers reaffirm commitment to multilateralism and free trade

Wang says the two sides will enhance their strategic communication and cooperation

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 6:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 10:30pm

China and the European Union pledged to work together to promote free trade during a key regional summit in Singapore, on the heels of the trade detente between Europe and the US that left Beijing the central focus of US President Donald Trump’s global crusade on trade.

On the sidelines of the gathering of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) foreign ministers, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his counterpart Federica Mogherini, the highest representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy, to reaffirm their commitment to multilateralism and free trade.

Trump may raise tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods

Wang said the two would enhance their strategic communication and cooperation at a time of “uncertainty and instability in the international situation,” while Mogherini said the EU stands with China on trade and would not adopt any policy against Beijing, according to a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.

“China and the EU are two forces for stabilisation. They need to step up strategic communication and cooperation to firmly support multilateralism and international rules,” Wang was quoted as saying.

The bilateral show of cooperation comes after the China-EU summit in Beijing last month, where leaders from both sides committed to fostering an open world economy and pushing back against unilateralism and protectionism, a reference to the tariffs imposed by the US on its allies and competitors.

While Beijing has said it is not seeking to form a trade coalition to counter Washington, observers say China has been lobbying partners on the trade front as it feels the effects of the intensifying trade war with the US. China and the US have already exchanged billions in trade tariffs, with the White House now considering adding 25 per cent duties on an additional US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods, slated to be enacted in early September.

But while the Trump administration has levied steel and aluminium tariffs on its traditional allies in Europe, with the threat of further action, the agreement between the US and the EU last week to suspend their trade dispute allows Washington to concentrate its pressure on Beijing, analysts say.

Europe lines up to support Iran deal as Trump mulls new sanctions

China’s foreign ministry said that besides discussing trade, Wang and Mogherini also agreed to continue maintaining and implementing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the US unilaterally withdrew from in May. The two leaders said they agreed to strengthen cooperation and oppose unilateral sanctions, a reference to Washington’s decision to reimpose oil sanctions against Iran after Trump pulled out of the landmark agreement. Under the deal crippling international sanctions were lifted after the Iranian regime pledged to suspend and limit its nuclear programme.

The foreign ministers of Iran and North Korea, another country criticised for its nuclear programme, attended the Asean summit.