Chinese President Xi Jinping met at a state guesthouse in Beijing with the two European presidents, Ursula von der Leyen from the EU Commission and Charles Michel from the EU Council. The two European leaders were going to meet Premier Li Qiang, China’s No. 2 leader, later on Thursday.
The European Union is calling on China to improve market access for products from its 27 member countries to address an annual trade imbalance of more than $200 billion between the two sides. China exported $458.5 billion worth of goods to the EU in the first 11 months of this year, and imported $257.8 billion, according to Chinese customs data released Thursday.
The EU also has angered China by launching an investigation into the latter’s subsidies for electric vehicles to determine whether they give manufacturers in China an unfair competitive advantage in European markets.
“China has never deliberately pursued a trade surplus,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said ahead of the summit. He noted recent import and supply chain expos that he said encourage foreign companies to sell to the Chinese market of 1.4 billion people.
Wang also took aim at possible EU restrictions on technology exports to China. “I’m afraid it’s unreasonable if the EU imposes strict restrictions on the export of high-tech products to China while expecting a significant increase in exports to China,” he said.
The EU is looking for better market access for a range of products including cosmetics, infant formula and wine and other alcoholic beverages.
China has angered the EU by taking a neutral stance in what most European countries see as a Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. The EU is calling on China to use its influence with Russia to end the invasion, ensure that exports from or via China are not aiding Russia’s war effort and support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s peace formula.
Von der Leyen, as commission president, heads the day-to-day business of the EU, while Michel chairs the summits of EU leaders.