EU chief: China relations strategically important but challenging

Brussels, Sep 16 (efe-epa).- The head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday the bloc’s relationship with China was strategically important but challenging due to the divide in governance style and rights issues.

Von der Leyen delivered a State of the Union address in European Parliament that touched on a wide range of issues from the coronavirus and economic recovery to health and foreign affairs.

EU leaders met with their Chinese counterparts this week in the latest summit between the major economies, in which fair competition remains a stumbling block in trade discussions while Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong and alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang are a moral concern for Brussels.

“The relationship between the European Union and China is simultaneously one of the most strategically important and one of the most challenging we have,” Von der Leyen said in her maiden speech as Commission chief.

“There is still hard work to do on fair market access for European companies, reciprocity and overcapacity. We continue to have an unbalanced trade and investment partnership.”

“And there is no doubt that we promote very different systems of governance and society. We believe in the universal value of democracy and the rights of the individual,” she added.

She said Europe was not free of its own issues and pointed to ongoing anti-semitism as an example but that problems in society are criticized and political opposition encouraged and protected by law.

“We must always call out human rights abuses whenever and wherever they occur – be it on Hong Kong or with the Uyghurs,” she said.

With presidential elections looming, Von der Leyen also said it was time to “build a new transatlantic agenda” with the United States.

“We might not always agree with recent decisions by the White House. But we will always cherish the transatlantic alliance – based on shared values and history, and an unbreakable bond between our people,” she added.

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