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The European Union on Monday urged China to further open its markets up to European companies and prove that it really does want to secure an investment agreement this year with the bloc, its largest trading partner.

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After a two-hour video conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU Council President Charles Michel and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said they also pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping on human rights and the need for international cooperation to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

As an economic competitor to China, the 27-nation EU has struggled to balance its commercial interests against its concerns for human rights in the country, particularly as Beijing has grown more assertive in recent years.

Europe is a player, not a playing field.

Today we took another step in forging a more balanced relationship with China.

A relationship that delivers on our mutual commitments & generates concrete results for both sides. ????#EUChina

— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) September 14, 2020

Von der Leyen, who leads the EUs executive body that manages trade on behalf of the member countries, noted that trade and investment talks have been stepped up but despite some recent progress “a lot, a lot, still remains to be done”.

“The European market is open, and European companies must have fair and equal access to the Chinese market in return,” she told reporters. Xi did not take part in the post-summit news conference.

Citing a lack of opportunities in China's communications, IT, biotech and health care sectors, she said, “We see that our investors just face too many barriers in these key sectors, and for us, with market access, its not just a question of meeting halfway, but its a question of rebalancing the asymmetry.”

“China has to convince us that it is worth having an investment agreement,” von der Leyen said, acknowledging the struggle involved in securing one by the end of the year as the Europeans had hoped.

Taking part in our video conference with Chinese President Xi. Looking forward to frank & open discussions. Engagement at the highest level with China is crucial if we are to promote European economic interests, protect our climate & defend fundamental values and rights. #EUChina

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) September 14, 2020

Turning to human rights issues, Michel said the three had a “quite intense discussion” with Xi, notably on China's restive far western province of Xinjiang, where authorities have cracked down on local Uighurs. Michel said Xi appears willing to allow visits into the region by diplomats to check whats happening. Merkel said the details must still be thrashed out.

Chinese officials have repeatedly denied allegations of genocide, forced sterilisation and the mass detention of nearly 1 million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang as lies fabricated by anti-China forces. They claim that the Uighurs are treated equally, and that Beijing always protects the rights of China's ethnic minorities.

Michel said the Europeans also underlined that Chinas national security law for Hong Kong “continues to raise grave concerns”, thatRead More – Source

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