EU, Chinese leaders to discuss market access, Brexit fallout

BEIJING, China – European Union and Chinese leaders kick off a summit Tuesday at a time of global uncertainty over Brexit and pressure from European companies for better access to China’s market.

EU leaders are expected to press their Chinese counterparts to accelerate their efforts to reduce overcapacity in sectors including steel amid complaints in Europe that low-cost Chinese competition is putting European steelworkers’ jobs at risk.

President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang will meet with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Tuesday. The EU leaders are likely to face questions on the future of the bloc following the U.K.’s referendum vote to leave three weeks ago that has caused economic and political uncertainty.

Also high on the agenda during the two-day summit in Beijing will be a push for progress on an investment agreement between the two sides. The EU, which is China’s largest trading partner, says this is to enable fair competition between Chinese and European companies. Chinese officials say they want to sign an agreement quickly to benefit both sides and that foreign companies are welcome in their economy.

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said Monday in Beijing that the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment has to be concluded first before any negotiations can start on a free-trade agreement between China and the 28-nation EU. Negotiations first started in Jan. 2014.

Other topics are likely to include the situation in Syria and the resulting migrant crisis, possible new fields of defence and security co-operation in Africa, and climate change.