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EU's Borrell warns trade trust with China 'eroded'

October 13, 2023

China has a lot of work to do to restore confidence with Western investors, the European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has warned.

The container ship MSC Gulsun
Chinese export volumes to the EU hugely outweigh imports, and Borrell said the difference was also 'qualitative' Image: MSC/dpa/picture alliance

European Union foreign policy head Josep Borrell on Friday warned that a trade imbalance had badly dented trust between China and the 27-nation bloc.

Borrell said that, if nothing was done, Europe's efforts to reduce its dependence on China might "accelerate far more than is good."

What Borrell said in China

"Trust is at the core of any human relationship, and... common trust has been eroded," Borrell told his audience at Peking University in the Chinese capital, Beijing.

"We have to work to rebuild this trust," he said. "It will not come back miraculously. It has to be restored."

Borrell highlighted a trade imbalance between the bloc and China of €400 billion ($423 billion) and said the gap was "not only quantitative but also qualitative."

"It affects sectors in which we enjoy a comparative advantage... we believe that the problem is not rooted in a simple difference in productivity," he said.

"To my mind, to our mind, the cause is the result of persistent difficulties experienced by European companies when they want to gain access to the Chinese market," he said. "It is ... in our interest to find common ground, to redress the imbalance in our economic and trade relations.

"Otherwise, de-risking may indeed accelerate far more than is good, as the public opinion will increase its pressure on political leaders to disengage more from China," Borrell said.

China: Is decline looming after the rise?

Why is Borrell in China?

The long-awaited trip to Shanghai and Beijing has already been postponed twice and comes a week after the EU launched an anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese electric vehicle imports.

That decision was criticized by Beijing, which said it would damage trading relations between the EU and the world's second-largest economy.

The 27-member bloc's record $426.08 billion trade deficit with China has grown into a bone of contention, as has China's close relations with Russia after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Brussels has adopted a dual approach to China, citing it as both an "economic competitor and a systemic rival."

Despite their differences, the two sides are keen to resume dialogue in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and amid mounting geopolitical tension.

rc/sms (AFP, Reuters)