EU trade chief warns China that EU will become 'more assertive' on trade

Mon 25 Sept 2023
Posted by: Benjamin Roche
Trade News

EU-China flags billowing

Valdis Dombrovskis, the EU’s trade commissioner, has warned that the bloc will pursue a “more assertive” policy on trade relations with China.

According to a Bloomberg report, Dombrovskis accused China of a “lack of reciprocity” and a failure to provide a “level playing field” in trade in an address delivered at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

“The EU welcomes competition. It makes our companies stronger and more innovative. However, competition must be fair, and we will be more assertive in tackling unfairness.”

‘Discriminatory standards’

The European Commission (EC) vice-president made the comments on his four-day tour of China.

Speaking on Saturday in Shanghai, he argued that the Chinese government has created “a more politicised business environment” and that it has established “discriminatory standards and security requirements”, per Politico.

Railing against restrictions

The rest of his trip will see him outline some of the EU’s specific issues, including restrictions on data sharing and on the sale of European medical technology and cosmetic products.

Politico’s report also suggests that EU officials are contemplating an investigation into public procurement in China’s medical industries, which they say is closed in comparison to the more open European model.

A probe into the country’s rail sector could also be in the offing.

The Ukraine effect

Dombrovskis has also made the case that “wider geopolitical shifts” have complicated China’s trade position, particularly in its approach to the war in Ukraine.

“It’s very difficult for us to understand China’s stance on Russia’s war against Ukraine, as it breaches China’s own fundamental principles.”

Dombrovskis suggested that the war diminished China through its effect on the global economy, as well as its effect on perceptions of the country as a place to do business.

“[China’s position on the war is] affecting the country’s image, not only with European consumers but also businesses.”

Von der Leyen weighs in

The comments come following those of Ursula von der Leyen in her state of the Union speech last week, where the EU commission president said that Chinese electric vehicles (EVs) are “distorting our market”.

            “Their price is kept artificially low by huge state subsidies.”

She also argued that European firms are “too often excluded from foreign markets”.

The EU has opened an investigation into Chinese EVs following von der Leyen’s message to Chinese premier Li Qiang at the G20 summit this month outlining the EU’s growing concerns.

Investment in the spotlight

Politico’s report notes that Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy minister, voiced concern last week that the EU probe could draw Chinese retaliation that could in turn affect his country’s car manufacturing sector.

The EU is more broadly considering strengthening its screening of European investment into China.