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Trust between EU, China 'eroded', Borrell warns

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell delivers a speech at Peking University in Beijing on October 13, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has warned that trust between the bloc and China has been eroded, as he is on a visit to the East Asian country aimed at reducing tensions between the bloc and its largest trading partner.

"Trust is at the core of any human relationship, and... common trust has been eroded," Borrell told an audience at Peking University in Beijing on Friday, calling for “rebuilding this trust."

"It will not come back miraculously," he said, stressing the need for the common trust to be "restored".

Borrell arrived in China on Thursday for a three-day visit that comes as the bloc is seeking to "de-risk" relations with China.

The EU’s top diplomat said the bloc’s trade deficit with China, which has reached $423 billion "is not only quantitative, but also qualitative."

"It affects sectors in which we enjoy a comparative advantage... we believe that the problem is not rooted in a simple difference in productivity," he said, adding "To my mind, to our mind, the cause is the result of persistent difficulties experienced by European companies when they want to gain access to the Chinese market."

Borrell called for addressing economic and business challenges, saying that "neither we nor China can ignore each other's market.”

Borrell's visit is also likely to discuss the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war as Europe is not happy with China’s neutral stance on the conflict.

"We are not asking China to adopt the same standpoint as the European Union's" on the conflict, he said, "But we consider it essential that China makes a major effort to convince the people of Ukraine that China is not Russia's ally in this war."

Borrell is scheduled to meet China's top diplomat Wang Yi later on Friday.

China has “welcomed” Borrell's visit, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin saying it would "inject new impetus into the two sides' joint efforts to address challenges and maintain world peace and stability."

"The world is currently facing a volatile and turbulent situation," Wang told reporters.

The visit comes just days after fighting erupted between Palestinian resistance fighters and the Israeli regime. The EU has expressed its unwavering support for the Israeli aggressions on Gaza, while China has called on all parties to "cease fire".

The visit also comes as the EU is laying the foundations for a planned EU-China summit later this year.

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