March 21, 2019 / 7:38 PM / 2 months ago

France's Macron to host Xi, Merkel and Junker at March 26 meeting

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives for a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Emmanuel Macron will host Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as the leaders of Germany and the European Union’s executive arm at a March 26 meeting to discuss multilateral relations between Europe and China, a French presidency official said.

The talks will focus on trade, climate and China-European relations, the official said. France wants a more coordinated EU approach to China, rather than member countries focussing on bilateral relations.

The meeting comes at a time when the EU is weighing a more defensive strategy on China, spurred by China’s slowness to open up its economy, Chinese takeovers in critical sectors and a feeling in European capitals that Beijing has not stood up for free trade.

“This meeting is a first step,” the Elysee official said, adding that the meeting would help lay the groundwork for concrete results at an EU-China summit on April 9.

Macron, arriving at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday, spoke of a “European awakening” that China is seeking to produce sophisticated products that will compete with those made in Europe.

“Since the beginning of my mandate I’ve been calling for a real awareness and for the defence of European sovereignty,” Macron told reporters.

Reporting by Richard Lough; editing by John Irish

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