(Bloomberg) – Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are expected to hold a video call this week, people with knowledge of the matter said.
The agenda is not yet known, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is not public.
The virtual meeting will not be the first high-level communication between the trio at a time when the pandemic has halted most of the international travel of world leaders. But it comes as tensions between Europe and the world’s second-largest economy are on the rise.
The respective readings of any conversations between the three would be closely scrutinized as once-cordial relations between the European Union and China grapple over a stalled trade deal and human rights sanctions.
Macron is said to be willing to give new impetus to the interests of the aviation company Airbus SE and pressure Xi to ease travel restrictions to China for EU citizens, especially businessmen.
The call also comes weeks after the leaders of the Group of 7 joined the EU and the US in pushing forward new research from the World Health Organization into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside of business hours. French and German government officials did not confirm that the call would continue.
In the wake of the pandemic, Merkel, Macron and Xi held a video call in late 2020. Later, Macron made a climate-focused virtual call with Merkel and Xi in April, days before a broader climate summit hosted by the president. Joe Biden, also held virtually.
At the time, European leaders welcomed Xi’s renewed commitment for China to achieve CO2 neutrality by 2060. The trio also discussed the coronavirus pandemic and the global availability of vaccines.
Macron has said that one of his goals as French president is to visit China once a year, and he invited Merkel to a meeting with Xi in France in 2019, to project a unified front to Beijing from Europe’s two largest economies.
China has recently taken an increasingly defiant stance on the international stage.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi, echoing Xi’s centennial celebration speech on July 1, criticized the United States and its allies this weekend for maintaining an old-fashioned Cold War mentality that is often seen as the opposite. to the Chinese government.
In May, EU lawmakers halted ratification of a landmark investment agreement with China, the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, in response to Beijing’s counter-sanctions against members of the bloc.
The EU, along with the US, UK and Canada, imposed sanctions against China earlier this year for alleged human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, prompting an immediate reaction from Beijing.
Much of the global criticism of China has focused on its treatment of Uighurs and other minorities in the country’s far west. China has launched an international campaign against the claims, saying it is trying to fight terrorism and improve the livelihoods of minorities.
A 2019 United Nations panel of experts said an estimated 1 million people have been sent to detention centers in the region, part of a set of policies that the United States says amounts to genocide.
Western brands have also been embroiled in controversy. This spring, China launched a campaign to boycott certain Western companies after the EU and its allies imposed sanctions. Shares of H&M, Nike Inc. and others plummeted as Chinese officials backed boycotts and celebrities cut ties with brands like Adidas, New Balance and Japan’s Uniqlo.
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