The European Union and China were able to come to an agreement on a joint statement after a summit in Brussels on Tuesday, despite reports suggesting it might not happen.
The communique included criticisms aimed directly at the administration of US President Donald Trump, stressing that both sides are committed to fighting against “unilateralism and protectionism.”
While there is continued optimism that the US and China will end a costly tariff battle, which most economists agree resulted in substantial collateral damage to the global economy, Trump said on Tuesday he is preparing to use the blunt instrument to challenge Washington’s allies in Europe.
Due to EU subsidies for planemaker Airbus the US “will now put Tariffs on $11 Billion of EU products!” the US president wrote on Twitter.
The ongoing World Trade Organization arbitration case also involved EU allegations of US subsidies for Boeing. Brussels responded that it is also preparing retaliatory measures.
“The Commission is starting preparations so that the EU can promptly take action based on the arbitrator’s decision on retaliation rights in this case,” a spokesperson for the Commission said. “The European Union remains open for discussions with the United States, provided these are without preconditions and aim at a fair outcome.”
The joint EU-China statement also addressed concerns raised by Brussels over Chinese economic practices, including the forced transfer of technology.
The top EU trade official, Cecilia Malmstrom, said in an interview ahead of the summit that Europe will not take the US route of pressuring China to make reforms using tariffs.
Malmstrom emphasized that she sees a potential investment treaty as the ideal way to work through disputes, but she acknowledged it is not moving fast enough and that China’s offers are “very modest.”
Despite the progress made to produce a joint declaration, Brussels has taken a harder line in its view of Beijing in recent months, going so far as to call China a “systemic rival.”
China’s ambassador to the EU, Zhang Ming, said during an interview with Politico ahead of the summit that he disagrees with that term, and urged EU not to follow the US in antagonizing China.