US-China trade deal won’t affect European firms in China, Xi Jinping tells Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron

US-China trade deal won’t affect European firms in China, Xi Jinping tells Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron
Published in 27 January, 2020

Chinese President Xi Jinping has sought to reassure European companies that their interests in the world’s second-largest economy will not suffer as a result of Beijing’s trade deal with the United States, while also calling for fair treatment of Chinese firms operating in Europe.

In a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkelon Wednesday, Xi asked for the “creation of a level playing field” for companies operating in Germany – in an apparent reference to the debate in Berlin as to whether Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologiesshould be allowed to be involved in building Germany’s 5G network.
Trade has been a thorny issue between the European Unionand China since Beijing and Washington signed their “phase one” deal last week. Some European companies fear they will miss out as a result of China promising to increase its purchases of American products as part of the agreement.

“The economic and trade cooperation between China and the relevant country will not affect the interests of other trade partners in Europe and Germany,” China’s state broadcaster CCTV quoted Xi as telling Merkel, though he made no mention of the US.

Xinhua, meanwhile, quoted Merkel as saying she was “pleased” with the US-China deal, while also praising Beijing for opening its markets to German businesses.

The chancellor has so far been reluctant to impose a ban on Huawei, possibly out of concerns that doing so would hurt German companies’ interests in China.

After some German politicians queried Merkel’s reluctance to ban Huawei from the country’s next-generation 5G mobile network, China’s ambassador to Germany, Wu Ken, said last month that any such restrictions would have “consequences”.

Merkel sought to reassure Xi of her policy of trade openness, saying Germany “would treat companies from all countries, including China, fairly”, according to the Xinhua report.

Xi said China and Germany “shoulder important responsibilities” as the world becomes more fluid.

“China has always placed emphasis on our relationship with Germany,” he said. “It is hoped that China and Germany can become mutually dependent collaborators that go beyond ideologies.”

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macronmade his country’s position clear in a separate telephone call with Xi.

“I would like to emphasise that on the question on 5G, France will not adopt any discriminatory policies against any country or company,” Xinhua quoted him as saying.

The comments from Merkel and Macron come after the EU in March dubbed China a “systemic rival” but said there was still room for cooperation.

A German source said Merkel also made reference to the issues of Hong Kong and Xinjiang in her call with Xi, though those subjects were not mentioned in the Xinhua report.

Xi told the two European leaders that China was committed to reaching what he called a “high quality” investment agreement with the EU, state media said, in reference to a deal expected to be concluded this year.

Xi also told Macron that China and France should seek further cooperation in the areas of civilian-use nuclear power, manufacturing and aerospace technology.

Expressing an interest to revisit China, Macron said he also saw room for collaboration on issues like climate change, biodiversity and the reform of the World Trade Organisation, Xinhua said.

“I hope the two sides can continue to push for cooperation on trade, investment and environmental protection,” he said.

Both Macron and Merkel appealed to Xi to release information about the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan.

Xi replied by saying China would continue to share information with the World Health Organisation and work with the international community to curb the control the virus, which has already infected more than 480 people and caused nine deaths.

Source: South China Morning Post