China, EU may hold their annual summit early in 2017 to endore free trade

Updated 2017-02-17 09:29:45 Global Times

Leaders look to endorse free trade

Chinese analysts said that China and the EU may hold their annual summit in 2017 earlier than previous years, in a bid to support free trade and globalization as well as address challenges in the China-EU cooperation.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a press conference in Beijing on Thursday that "we are keeping communication and coordination with the EU on the summit this year, and we will release the information when it's appropriate."

Three anonymous EU officials were quoted by Reuters on Wednesday as saying that the EU is "preparing for an early summit with China in April or May in Brussels to promote free trade and international cooperation in the face of a more protectionist US government," and one official said China had requested it to take place as early as possible.

Although Geng failed to confirm the Reuters report, he said on Thursday that China always treats the EU as an important pole in the process of world's multi-polarization, irrespective of changes in the world.

"China's determination to support multilateralism around the globe would not change; China will firmly support European integration process; and China sincerely hopes the EU can be stable and prosperous," said Geng.

Zhong Na from the Press Office of the Delegation of the European Union to China told the Global Times on Thursday that there is no information about the summit to be released at this moment, but if both sides reach an agreement on the relevant details, the information will be released.

"Both sides want to hold a summit as soon as possible this year. This is based on the mutual interests of China and the EU," Wang Yiwei, director of the Center for International Studies at the Renmin University, told the Global Times.

"For the EU, it needs a summit with the world's second-largest economy to assure its people and elites that there is a powerful friend from the East willing to support Europe's regional integration and free trade," Wang said.

Wang added that it will also "send a message to Donald Trump that the EU is not alone if the US refuses to support the European integration."

Although both sides share common interests on supporting free trade and globalization, EU members have differences on some points. "Germany, France and Italy have called on Brussels to grant them a right of veto over Chinese high-tech takeovers, in a sign of growing protectionist backlash against Chinese investments in Europe's most sensitive industries," according to a Financial Times report on Wednesday.

For China, "we also need to hold a summit as soon as possible to solve the difficulties and problems in trade and economic cooperation via negotiation with our EU partners," Wang said.

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