Europe Urges China to Open up at Asia Summit

October 19, 2018 Updated: October 19, 2018

BRUSSELS—European governments pressed the Chinese regime on Oct. 19, to allow greater foreign investment in its economy, during a two-day summit with Asian leaders, but faced familiar resistance from them over state subsidies.

At a biennial Asia-Europe Meeting bringing together leaders representing 65 percent of global economic output, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, and the European Commission held private meetings with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, hoping for greater access for EU companies to the world’s No. 2 economy.

The Chinese regime has been promising for years to ease restrictions on foreign investment, but Western governments say little has changed.

The Chinese regime restricts foreign investment more than the EU in every sector except real estate, according to a report by the Rhodium Group consultancy.

French President Emmanuel Macron held talks with Li on Thursday evening, lobbying for better access to China’s poultry, dairy, pharmaceuticals, services, and financial services sectors, a French official said.

But there was no sign of a breakthrough. “Some gestures have been made, but it must go further now,” the official said.

French President Emmanuel Macron taps South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in as they attend the ASEM leaders summit in Brussels, along with Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Belgium, on Oct. 19, 2018. (Francois Lenoir/Reuters)

A final summit communique was set to omit a call for an end to government trade distortions, according to the latest draft and EU diplomats.

The earlier draft, seen by Reuters, had called for “the elimination of unjustifiable market distorting measures by governments.”

The European Union and the United States accuse the Chinese regime of directly funding state companies through Chinese banks to help them to dominate global markets, breaking rules set down by the World Trade Organization, of which China is a member.

The EU also wants China, which produces and consumes half the world’s steel and has cut some 220 million tonnes of manufacturing overcapacity since January 2016, to reduce its capacity further.

By Philip Blenkinsop and Robin Emmott