The European Union (EU) and China have agreed to launch a working group that aims to propose reforms to the World Trade Organization.
The move is considered an effort to update the international body responsible for settling trade disputes.
High-level officials met in Beijing Monday to discuss trade and related issues.
Most of the likely proposals from the EU are connected to trade measures and policies that are used in China. Many of the EU’s concerns are similar to those expressed by U.S. President Donald Trump. His administration has ordered high tariffs on about $34 billion in Chinese goods.
The Trump administration announced Monday that it was considering restrictions on foreign investment in the technology industry.
WTO reform not easy
European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen has said reforming the WTO would take time and would not be easy. But he warned that, if nothing is done, “the environment for multilateral trade will vanish.”
China’s state media have said Monday’s meeting with EU officials was part of an effort to oppose “unilateralism and protectionism.”
But the EU wants reform efforts to deal with issues such as governments providing assistance to companies to make them more competitive. The EU also wants to stop what it calls the forced transfer of technology in exchange for being able to do business in a country.
Katainen said the two issues are “some of the reasons why the president of the United States is taking unilateral action.”
He added that the issues have to be solved in an orderly way. He said the WTO needs to be updated to better deal with the current realities of the modern world.
“The EU is not siding with any party or any country, the only thing we are siding with is rules-based trade,” said Katainen.
Chinese state media have described the talks as the EU and China joining in an effort to oppose U.S. trade policy that includes import taxes. China has strongly denounced U.S. tariffs on its aluminum and steel products announced earlier this year. The country also said it would place its own tariffs on U.S. products after the Trump administration recently announced tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods.
China has accused the U.S. of using “extreme pressure” and has promised to answer U.S. trade moves.
A report in the state-operated China Daily noted how disputes with the U.S. had created closer ties between the EU and China.
China’s Vice Premier Liu He spoke to reporters with Katainen after the meeting Monday. He did not discuss the WTO reform working group directly. But, he said the sides agreed to reform the international “trade system and keep it advancing with the times.”
The meeting on Monday was held to prepare for a meeting of EU and Chinese leaders on July 16 and 17.
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