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China, EU close ranks to tackle US protectionism, trade war

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, gestures as he delegates a Chinese official to look into the problems brought up by European businessmen as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker looks on during the China-EU Business Roundtable held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, Pool)

BEIJING (Kyodo) -- China and the European Union, the primary targets of U.S. tariffs, put up a solid front against trade protectionism on Monday, warning that President Donald Trump's "America First" policy could hurt global economic growth.

In a joint statement released after the China-EU summit in Beijing, the two sides said they are "strongly committed" to "resisting protectionism and unilateralism" and to "improving trade and investment liberalization and facilitation."

But while Beijing and Brussels have gotten closer amid trade war concerns sparked by Washington's tariffs, they apparently remain at odds over issues such as technology transfer and protecting intellectual property.

In their talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged China to open its markets further and take necessary steps to protect intellectual property rights, amid lingering criticism that it has obtained technology through underhanded means from other nations.

The EU side "took note of China's recent commitments to improving market access and the investment environment, strengthening intellectual property rights and expanding imports," the statement said, adding that Brussels "looks forward to their full implementation as well as further measures."

The meeting came on the same day as Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

Tusk told a joint press conference that Europe, China, the United States and Russia have a "common duty" not to "destroy" the global order and "not to start trade wars."

"Today we are facing a dilemma, whether to play a tough game, such as tariff wars and conflict in places like Ukraine and Syria, or to look for common solutions based on fair rules," the former Polish prime minister said.

"This is why responsibility, predictability, spirit of cooperation and respect for our common rules and commitments are so important these days," he added.

Li said the trade war between China and the United States should be "ultimately resolved by the two countries," indicating that Beijing still has an intention to continue talks with Washington to prevent their conflict from deepening.

The Trump administration has started to impose higher tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from major trading partners, including China and the European Union.

Moreover, Trump has threatened to impose a 20 percent tariff on U.S. imports of all cars assembled in the European Union, telling a CBS news program in an interview broadcast Sunday that he considers the 28-member bloc to be a "foe" in terms of trade competition.

The United States also said last week that it will impose 10 percent tariffs on an additional $200 billion in Chinese imports as early as September, in response to China's alleged intellectual property and technology theft.

Washington had already slapped additional 25 percent duties on $34 billion of Chinese imports earlier this month -- the first round of the new tariffs worth $50 billion. China immediately retaliated with duties on the same value of U.S. goods.

Many economists have voiced concern that an intensifying trade war between the United States and other export-oriented economies would reduce the volume of global trade, dealing a heavy blow to economic growth across the world.

On Monday, China and the European Union also confirmed that they will work in tandem to reform and modernize the World Trade Organization, established in 1995, to reflect developments in the global economy.

The two sides agreed to set up a joint working group on WTO reform, chaired at vice-ministerial level, the joint statement said.

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