China and the European Union will hold a fresh round of a high-level strategic dialogue in Brussels Friday. China’s State Councilor Yang Jiechi will meet the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini to “exchange views on key international issues,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Wednesday.
“Later this year, China and the EU will hold the 18th China-EU leaders' meeting in Beijing. China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi will meet with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini to discuss preparations for the meeting at the 6th China-EU High-level Strategic Dialogue,” Hong said, adding that the two sides would also seek to “strengthen coordination and cooperation in international affairs.”
Yang will also meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
The talks are expected to focus on trade, the ongoing territorial dispute in the South China Sea — which the EU has, on occasion, commented upon — and the impact of the looming Brexit referendum on relations between the EU, China and the U.K.
China is currently the EU’s largest trading partner behind the United States, and trade between the two is estimated to top 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) a day. In recent months, China has intensified lobbying to gain a “market economy status” in the EU, which, if granted, would reduce trade barriers and increase the influx of Chinese exports to the 28-nation bloc.
However, many have expressed concerns over the impact of such a move on the EU’s steel industry, which is already under pressure from a flood of cheap exports from China.
“I think we will not survive,” Karl Tachelet, director of the European steel association Eurofer, told the BBC. “The excess capacity of China is estimated at 350 to 400 million tons. The total steel demand in Europe, which is by far the second biggest steel market in the world, is around 170 million tons.”
On the issue of Brexit — which Britons will vote on less than two weeks from now — Beijing has made little secret of its stance. Despite China’s stated stand of not interfering in other nations’ internal affairs, Chinese officials have, in the past, said they would like to see a united EU, thereby lending their tacit support to the “stay” campaign.
“As a comprehensive strategic partner of the EU, China follows closely changes in the situation in Europe, supports Europe in tackling internal and external challenges from a strategic and long-term perspective, and wishes to see a united, strong and prosperous EU which plays an important role in international affairs,” Hong said at Wednesday’s press conference.