© Reuters. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gestures next to European Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager during an event in connection with Trade and Technology Council (TTC), in Lulea, Sweden May 31, 2023. TT News Agency/Jonas Ekstromer via REUTERS
By Philip Blenkinsop
LULEA, Sweden (Reuters) – The United States and the European Union pledged on Wednesday to join forces to counter China’s non-market economic practices and disinformation, particularly over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The two partners sought at their Trade and Technology Council in Sweden to find common interests, such as over artificial intelligence and future trade in environmentally-friendly goods, but China proved a pervasive topic.
They said in a joint statement at the end of a fourth ministerial TTC meeting that they were ready to address non-market practices together and multilaterally.
They highlighted China’s policies in the medical devices sector and their adverse effect on EU and U.S. workers, saying they were “exploring possible coordinated actions”. China faces criticism that it has closed its medical devices market to non-Chinese producers and discriminates against foreign producers in public tenders.
The statement said the EU and the United States were deeply concerned about foreign information manipulation, interference and disinformation.
It said Russian information surrounding its invasion of Ukraine and China’s “amplification of Russian disinformation narratives” were stark examples of the dangers.
Brussels says it considers China a partner in some fields, an economic competitor and a strategic rival. The European Union plans to recalibrate its China policy, recognising coordination with a more hawkish United States is essential.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the EU’s and the United States’ views of China had increasingly converged, noting neither was looking for confrontation.
“None of us are looking for decoupling. On the contrary, we all benefit from trade and investment with China. But as opposed to decoupling, we are focused on de-risking and you’ve heard the same language coming from leaders on both sides of the Atlantic,” he told a press conference.
The two sides said they would look into action to reinforce civil society and fact-checking organisations in third countries, notably in Africa and Latin America, where they said the negative impact of disinformation could be seen.
They also said they were committed to working with the G7 to coordinate action to counteract acts of economic coercion, which would include trade restrictions the EU says China has imposed on EU member Lithuania.