EU to issue firm words at China summit with limited expectations

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Top EU officials will raise an array of concerns from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to trade irritants in a summit with Chinese leaders on Thursday that is expected to be long on firm words, but short on outcomes.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in the morning and Premier Li Qiang in the afternoon on their one-day visit to Beijing.

There will be no joint statement from Thursday’s talks, EU officials said, and they do not expect concrete outcomes from the first in-person EU-China summit since 2019.

“There’s not a single outstanding deliverable that will be crowning the summit,” said one EU official

By contrast, Xi’s meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in California in November did produce agreements, although simmering differences remained, particularly over Taiwan.

The European Union will also have questions on Chinese intentions towards Taiwan, but its focus will be on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The European Union wants Beijing to use its influence on Russia to stop the war, will stress the need to respect sanctions on Russia and will raise the issue of growing arms supply from North Korea to Russia.

The bloc is also concerned about what it considers “imbalanced” economic relations, saying its near 400 billion euro ($431.7 billion) trade deficit with China reflects restrictions on EU businesses.

China will be expected to ask about an EU anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese electric vehicles and about the EU’s “de-risking” policy to reduce its reliance on Chinese imports, particularly of critical raw materials.

EU officials say the two sides could cooperate more on action to combat climate change and to promote biodiversity.

They also point to a series of dialogues set up on macro-economics and trade. These include the EU’s planned CO2 emissions import tariff and the circular economy, a possible increase in the number of food products whose names would be protected – such as only applying the term “feta” to a specific Greek cheese.

“These are not per se major summit deliverables … but in certain areas there are mutual interests and we can make a difference by working technically and practically together,” an EU official said.

($1 = 0.9265 euros)

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; additional reporting by Andrew Gray in Brussels and Laurie Chen in Beijing; editing by Grant McCool)