EPP’s Weber Urges EU to Stop China from Buying Out Strategic Assets
EU members’ foreign policy shouldn’t be influenced by their hopes for economic gains in dealings with China, the likely next chief of the European Commission has warned.
Manfred Weber, the lead candidate of the rightist European People’s Party for the 2019 EU elections, has urged the Union to block China from acquiring strategic EU assets, and has criticized the Belt and Road Initiative of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Manfred Weber, a German MEP who is the leader of the EPP group in the European Parliament, is highly likely to become the next President of the European Commission, the EU executive.
His warnings about Chinese acquisitions in the EU come in the wake of Chinese President Xi’s recent visits in Italy and France.
In the former, Xi made a major inroad by getting the populist government in Rome to sign up for his BRI project, while in the latter he was met with French President Emmanuel Macron’s calls for reciprocity and EU unity in dealings with Beijing.
The European Union should prevent Chinese firms from going on a “shopping spree” with the strategic assets inside the Union, Weber said, urging the EU countries not to be naïve in their approach to China.
“When state-subsidized companies go on shopping sprees, the EU must in future be able to prevent it on a case-by-case basis,” Weber told German newspaper Die Welt, as cited by DW.
The EPP hopeful for Jean-Claude Juncker’s job warned that Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative has a “political motivation” to bind countries to China.
“[EU member states shouldn’t be allowed to be] influenced on other issues such as foreign affairs because they hope for economic gain,” Weber said, insisting that the EU was in urgent need of a common strategy on China.
He argued that the ongoing trade dispute between the USA and China had given Europe “political strength” that the EU should use in its negotiations with Beijing.
Weber complained in particular that China’s public procurement market was “completely closed off” to European firms, with EU companies allowed in only in cases when their technologies were needed.
“If there is no movement here, relevant legislation could exclude Chinese providers from future public procurement bids [in the EU],” the leading EPP politician said.
Weber’s comments come ahead of an EU – China summit scheduled for April 9 in Brussels.
With Italy in, a total of 14 EU member states, mostly from Eastern and Southern Europe, have joined Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative.
In the wake of the decision of Italy’s populist Cabinet to join China’s BRI, EU Budget Commissioner Gunther Oettinger even proposed a veto power for the Union on Chinese infrastructure investments in EU member states.
The European Commission has recently described China as a “systemic rival” as well as an economic competitor to the EU.
(Banner image: Manfred Weber on Twitter)