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Ahead of import fair, EU calls for concrete opening steps from China
FILE PHOTO - European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, July 16, 2018. Ng Han Guan/Pool via REUTERS

Ahead of import fair, EU calls for concrete opening steps from China

BEIJING/SHANGHAI: The European Union on Thursday called for China to take concrete steps to further open its market to foreign firms and provide a level playing field, saying it would not sign up any political statement at next week’s major import fair in Shanghai.

The EU’s statement comes on the eve of the trade expo that Beijing hopes to use to signal its willingness to narrow trade deficits and assuage outside concern about its trade practices.

Critics see the China International Import Expo, or CIIE, as an ill-conceived event that is less about business and more about political posturing amid trade tensions between China and the United States.

The EU has many of the same complaints as the United States when it comes to Chinese trade practices and the treatment of foreign firms.

“For us, as one of China’s most important trading partners, success will be measured by the timely, concrete and systemic measures that China implements,” the EU said.

“These measures should go beyond tariff adjustments and aim to address the many long-standing trade and investment concerns. Our expectation is a clear-cut statement by the Chinese government which lays out details and timelines for such measures,” it added.

“As it is a country-specific initiative that focuses on imports into/opening-up the Chinese market, we would not endorse any joint political CIIE statement.”

Underscoring European concerns, a new strategy paper from Germany’s influential BDI industry federation calls on firms to reduce their dependence on the Chinese market, according to a draft seen by Reuters, in a sign of rising concern over Beijing’s state-driven economic model.