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

BEIJING/BRUSSELS, Nov 8 (Reuters) – Chinese authorities behind a major trade fair in Shanghai pulled a keynote speech by the president of the European Council, which was to criticize Russia’s “illegal war” in Ukraine and call for a reduction in the EU’s trade dependence on China. , diplomats said.

A pre-recorded video by Charles Michel was to be one of several from world leaders and heads of international organisations, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the opening of the China International Import Expo (CIIE) on Friday, three European diplomats told Reuters. .

Diplomats, who cannot be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, told Reuters they were surprised the speech had been removed.

“President Michel has been invited to speak at the 5th Hongqiao/CIIE Forum in Shanghai,” Barend Leyts, Michel’s spokesman, told Reuters. “At the request of the Chinese authorities, we did provide a pre-recorded message that ended up not being shown. We handled it through normal diplomatic channels.”

Neither of the exhibition’s co-organizers, China’s Ministry of Commerce and the Shanghai Municipal 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 situation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press conference in Beijing on Tuesday. “I can’t comment on that.

Other dignitaries who spoke at the ceremony after Xi included the director general of the International Monetary Fund, the director general of the World Trade Organization and the presidents of Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Belarus, according to the exhibition’s official website.

Belarus’ Alexander Lukashenko 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 operation” in Ukraine.


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The speech by the President of the European Council was to be strongly critical of Russia’s “illegal war against Ukraine” and, according to excerpts of the speech provided by EU diplomats, Europe is taking “important lessons” from it.

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

“In Europe, we want a balance in our trade relations … to avoid over-dependence,” said diplomats familiar with what he had to say. “This is also true of our trade relations with China.”

Michel was also prepared to call on China to do more to stop the bloodshed in Ukraine.

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

“China has a role to play in using its influence to stop Russia’s brutal war … through your so-called ‘no-holds-barred’ partnership with Russia,” Michel was quoted as saying, referring to the pact Xi Jinping and Putin announced in Beijing last week. the war began. “You, China, can help end this.

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Both Xi and Michel are expected to attend the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Bali next Tuesday and Wednesday.

The President of the European Council is one of the most senior officials of the European Union, whose role includes representing the bloc at international summits and bilateral summits with other heads of state.

Since 2019, the EU has officially considered China a partner, economic competitor and systemic rival.

The EU’s foreign policy service said in a document last month that Beijing should now be seen primarily as a competitor pushing an “alternative vision of world order”.

Report by Martin Quin Pollard in Beijing and Jan Strupczewski in Brussels; More news from Eduardo Baptista in Beijing; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Gareth Jones

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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