The European Union and China warned US President Donald Trump on Friday he was making a major error by withdrawing from the Paris climate pact, but the pair failed to agree a formal climate statement because of divisions over trade.
Speaking alongside Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the EU’s
Donald Tusk said efforts to reduce pollution and combat rising
sea levels would now continue without the United States. But a
spat on trade and steel production underscored the differences
in a sometimes difficult EU-China relationship.
“We are convinced that yesterday’s decision by the United
States to leave the Paris agreement is a big mistake,” Tusk, who chairs EU summits as the head of the European Council, told a news conference with Li and the EU’s chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker.
“The fight against climate change, and all the research,
innovation and technological progress it will bring, will
continue, with or without the US,” Tusk said.
In their meeting, the three leaders committed to cutting
back on fossil fuels, developing more green technology and
helping raise funds to help poorer countries cut their
emissions, but a dispute about trade ties scuppered plans for a
formal joint statement.
Despite what officials described as a warm meeting, China
and the European Union could not agree on a broader final
communique meant to focus on a range of other issues discussed at the talks, including a commitment to free trade and measures needed to reduce a global steel glut.
The leaders’ news conference was delayed for three hours as
they sought to find agreement.
According to one person present at the summit, China’s
insistence on a reference that the European Union will
eventually recognise China as an economy driven by the market, not the state, blocked the final 60-point statement.
That also meant there could be no agreement on a formal
pledge to work together to reduce global steel production.
China’s annual steel output is almost double the EU’s total
production and Western governments say Chinese steel exports
have caused a global steel crisis.
That theme was an undercurrent of the day-long meeting.
Before the formal EU-China summit got underway, Juncker referred at a business conference with Li to a World Bank report placing China 78th out of 190 countries in terms of the ease of doing business.
“A big economic powerhouse needs to be higher than
mid-table,” he said, adding that a planned EU-Chinese investment treaty needed to be completed to ensure reciprocal relations.
France, Germany and Italy have mooted the idea of allowing
the EU to block Chinese investment in Europe, partly because
European companies are denied similar access in China and
because of risks of China acquiring prized European technology.
In reply, Li said China was working hard to promote a trade
balance, with Chinese tourism to Europe now far greater than EU tourism in China. Foreign investment opportunities, he said,
were far different from when China first opened up.
“I do hope you can put things into context. We find the
problems, but we are working on them … Our ranking is getting
better,” he said.
Trump’s announcement on Thursday that he would take the
United States out of the Paris accord, saying the agreement
would undermine the US economy and cost jobs, drew anger and condemnation from world leaders and heads of industry.
European Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete told
reporters in Brussels he deeply regretted the US pullout from
the pact to fight the dangers of global warming, which was
signed by more than 190 countries, and said it could not be
renegotiated as Trump has suggested.
“The agreement is fit for purpose. The Paris agreement is
here to stay and the 29 articles of the Paris agreement are not
to be renegotiated,” he said after meeting his Chinese
Juncker told the business conference on Friday that China
and the EU recognised the need for international solutions and
this was nowhere more important than full implementation of the Paris agreement.
“There is no reverse gear to energy transition. There is no
backsliding on the Paris agreement,” Juncker said.
China overtook the United States as the world’s biggest
emitter of greenhouse gases in 2007.