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EU urged to open free-trade dialogue

By Fu Jing in Hamburg, Germany | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-07-08 00:17

President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are expected to agree on the importance of free trade and globalization at the G20 summit, in apparent opposition to US President Donald Trump's displays of protectionism, according to German business and academic leaders.

Ahead of the G20 summit on Friday and Saturday in Hamburg, they urged the European Union to start free trade talks with China, as its negotiation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (known as TTIP) with the United States was proving to be difficult and insecure.

Hans-Jorg Schmidt-Trenz, head of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, said the EU might get more benefits from negotiating with China rather than the US. "With talks of TTIP being very difficult and insecure, if we invest the same amount of energy with China, the result could be very different," he said.

Premier Li Keqiang called on the EU to begin trade talks with China during his meeting with European leaders last month in Brussels.

But TTIP is still high on the agenda of the European Commission, which also calls for EU talks with China on investment before trade.

Schmidt-Trenz said China and the EU could proceed with talks on both issues simultaneously.

Ralf Fuecks, former president of the Heinrich Boll Institute, a political foundation affiliated with the Green Party, said the international consensus on climate change and multilateralism was under threat.

"Two fundamental things are at stake. The first is climate change after the US announcing to leave the Paris Agreement, and the other is the threat of multilateral trade system," said Fuecks. "I should very much hope that the EU should start trade and investment talks with China," said Fuecks.

Chinese experts have also urged the EU to start free trade talks to show both sides' strong commitment to globalization.

Chi Fulin, president of China Institute of Reform and Development, told the audience at a forum in Brussels last week that the EU should change its priorities in response to new realities.

"Against the fast-changing global environment, the EU must accelerate its steps to reconsider its priorities in dealing with China. I believe one pressing priority should be EU-China free trade negotiations, which the EU has already started or concluded with several Asian partners," he said.

Regarding the China-Germany relationship, Schmidt-Trenz said contacts between China and Germany are very “high-level and very regular" as the leading cabinet members of each side hold consultation meeting annually.

"China is the only country outside Europe that we have such high-level meetings with, which has already self-explained the importance of Sino-German relationship," said Schmidt-Trenz.

He said he believes that President Xi's visit to Germany will boost bilateral relationship to new heights.

"Looking at G20 summit, I am sure that President Xi and Merkel will be sharing common interests in open market, removing trade barriers and advocating free trade," said Schmidt-Trenz.

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