EU chief wants ‘level playing field’ with China
STRATSBOURG, France – The head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said Monday she wants to avoid economic dependence on Beijing, but not fully “decouple” the EU’s economy from China.
Explaining the stance she took last week when she visited US President Joe Biden, Brussels’ top official said the European Union was merely seeking a level playing field.
The pair’s joint statement was a small step in resolving differences over trans-Atlantic trade, but came as Washington is mobilising allies to form an anti-China front.
EU member states differ over how to approach the stand-off, with some more wary than others about being dragged into a US-led confrontation with Beijing.
Some officials in Brussels privately expressed annoyance that von der Leyen might have inked a statement — even a simple promise of more talks — without consulting EU capitals.
One said that for a subject involving the EU’s geopolitical positioning, von der Leyen should have had “a mandate” from the member states.
But von der Leyen stressed that Europe is just trying to ensure it minimizes its economic dependency on China rather than picking sides in a fight.
“For the European Union it is important to de-risk — but not to ‘decouple’ — from China,” she told AFP during an interview organised by the European Newsroom project.
“De-risk means we do not want dependencies, like we’ve experienced with Russia on fossil fuels. We do not want dependency for example on critical raw materials.
“Therefore, we are diversifying away and we are strengthening our supply chains with like-minded partners,” she said.
“What we want is a level playing field. So, fair access for our companies to the Chinese market, transparency about subsidies, very clear commitment to respect intellectual property.”
Von der Leyen’s visit allowed Brussels and the White House to say they had made progress in heading off a trans-Atlantic trade dispute triggered by US green subsidy plans.
The Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act will plough huge sums into helping US companies make the transition to “made in America” green technologies.
But EU businesses fear they will lose market share, jobs, sites and even whole companies if Brussels fails to match the US subsidy spending spree.
The most concrete measure from the trip was a US offer of talks on exempting EU-produced rare minerals in, for example, car batteries to be exempt from US “buy American” rules.