Exclusive: China cancelled EU leader’s video address at opening of major trade expo

BEIJING/BRUSSELS, Nov 8 (Reuters) – Chinese officials delivered an opening speech by the president of the European Council on the sidelines of a major trade exhibition in Ukraine aimed at criticizing the “illegal war” in Ukraine and calling for reducing EU trade dependence on China. , said the diplomat.

A pre-recorded video of Charles Michel was made as one of the world leaders and heads of international organizations, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the opening of the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in on Friday, three European diplomats told Reuters. .

The diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the confidentiality of the matter, told Reuters they were surprised the speech had been scrapped.

“President Michel has been invited to speak at the 5th Hongqiao Forum/CIIE in Shanghai,” Michel’s spokesman Barend Leyts told Reuters. “As requested by the Chinese authorities, we did provide a pre-recorded message that was not ultimately shown. We discussed it through normal diplomatic channels.”

Neither the expo’s co-founders, China’s commerce ministry nor Shanghai’s city government responded to Reuters’ requests for comment. A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry denied any knowledge of the issue.

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“I am not aware of the relevant circumstances,” Zhao Lijian, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said at a regular briefing in Beijing on Tuesday. “I can’t comment on that.”

Other dignitaries who spoke at the ceremony after Xi included the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, the director-general of the World Trade Organization and the president of Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Belarus, according to the official website of the expo.

Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus is a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his country has hosted thousands of Russian troops before and during what Moscow calls its “special operations” in Ukraine.

TIME OF RUSSIA AND TRADE

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The speech by the president of the European Council was aimed at strongly criticizing Russia’s “illegal war on Ukraine” and saying that Europe is learning “important lessons” from it, according to excerpts the address provided by the EU diplomat.

Europe has become too dependent on Russia for fossil fuels, leading to a trade imbalance, Michel said.

“In Europe, we need a balance in our trade relations… to avoid over-dependence,” according to diplomats familiar with what he will say. “The same goes for our trade relationship with China.”

Michel is also set to call on China to do more to stop the bloodshed in Ukraine.

China has consistently refused to criticize Russia’s aggression, which has destroyed cities across Ukraine and killed thousands of soldiers and civilians since February 24.

“China has a role to play in using its power to stop Russia’s brutal war … through the so-called “unlimited” cooperation with Russia,” Michel said. referring to the agreement Xi and Putin announced in Beijing before the war began. “You, China, can help end this.”

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Both Xi and Michel are expected to attend and meet at the G20 (G20) Heads of Government meeting in Bali next Tuesday and Wednesday.

The president of the European Council is one of the most senior officials in the European Union who has the role of representing the group at international summits and international conferences with the other heads of state.

As of 2019, the EU has officially considered China a partner, an economic competitor and a structural competitor.

The European Union’s foreign policy agency said in a press release last month that Beijing should be seen as a rival that promotes “alternative visions of public order”.

Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard in Beijing and Jan Strupczewski in Brussels; Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista in Beijing; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Gareth Jones

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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