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China, EU vow to oppose protectionism, strengthen WTO amid US unilateralism

China and the European Union have vowed to coordinate their efforts to oppose protectionism in trade by strengthening the World Trade Organization (WTO).

During high-level economic meetings in Beijing on Monday, Chinese and EU authorities said their economies were in need of efforts to reinforce a rules-based international trading system amid US protectionism.

European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said after meeting Chinese Vice Premier Liu He that the two sides would form a working group to modernize the organization.

He said that the WTO “provides the basic infrastructure for rules-based trade and rules-based world order,” adding, “China and the EU both support this approach.”

China and the EU share similar concerns about moves by the United States to impose tariffs on key imports, including on metals. The two have introduced their own tariffs on US products to compensate for President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies in trade.

Trump has justified his tariffs on steel and aluminum, saying the increasing imports in those sectors is hurting domestic industries that are crucial to the US national security. He has also refused to grant the Europeans and other allies an exemption from the tariffs which are basically aimed at overproduction in China.

Liu, the Chinese official who is responsible for shepherding the world’s second largest economy, said China and the EU were determined to oppose protectionist trade policies, which he said could impact the world economy and drag it into recession.

“Unilateralism and trade protectionism is on the rise and tensions have appeared in the economic relations between major economies,” he said, adding, “The two sides committed to defend the multilateral trading system that is centered on the WTO and based on rules.”

The agreement between China and the EU to oppose the US trade policy comes despite major differences on China’s trade practices, which the Europeans view as detrimental to their industries. The EU shares concerns with Washington about China’s state subsidies to industry and forced technology transfer.

Katainen said the EU and China should do more to level the playing field in trade between the two sides.

“Our citizens are asking for reciprocity,” said Katainen while demanding that all companies enjoy equal treatment.

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