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U.S. and EU hail 'convergent' stances toward China

·3 min read
FILE PHOTO: Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman speaks at the State Department in Washington, DC

By David Brunnstrom and Michael Martina

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The approach of the United States and Europe toward China is "increasingly convergent," U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said on Friday, following meetings with the chief of the European Union's diplomatic service.

U.S. President Joe Biden has stressed as a hallmark of his foreign policy the importance of working closely with allies in pushing back against what his administration sees as China's increasingly assertive behavior worldwide.

The EU and United States on Thursday expressed concern over China's actions in the South and East China Seas and the Taiwan Strait, which they said had a "direct impact" on their respective security and prosperity.

Sherman, speaking at a briefing hosted by the Brookings Institution with Stefano Sannino, the Secretary General of the European External Action Service, said Washington was committed to standing "shoulder to shoulder" with European partners to engage China with "collective strength."

"We see our approach and the EU's approach to the PRC as complementary and increasingly convergent and aligned," she said, referring to the People's Republic of China.

Sannino, speaking after two days of talks with Sherman in Washington, said the EU recognized China's importance, but was not shying away when Beijing actions were not according to the rules. He called recent Chinese moves against EU member Lithuania "extremely worrying" and "not acceptable."

"When I see the way ... the Biden-Harris administration are defining their relations with China, when I see how they are defining their interests in the Indo-Pacific region, I think we are going really in the same direction," Sannino said.

Sannino said Europe was working to create an environment in the Indo-Pacific conducive to cooperation, but where the cost of confrontation was "extremely high," including by enhancing its security presence.

He said the EU wanted to strengthen its economic and cultural ties with democratic Taiwan, an exporter of key components for European industry which Beijing claims as its own.

China downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania after the Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania opened on Nov. 18.

Since then, Lithuanian officials have said China has imposed a customs block on Lithuanian exports, and is pressuring companies in third countries to not do business with the small Baltic state.

While both Sherman and Sannino stressed shared concerns and approaches, EU-U.S. relations are still recovering from the shock of a deal by the United States and former EU member Britain to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, which torpedoed a major French contract with Canberra https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/french-ambassador-accuses-australia-deceit-over-submarine-deal-2021-11-03.

Sannino said it was not just a commercial issue, but one of trust.

"We cannot say that this is not left scars, but all scars case can be healed," he said. "So it depends a little bit on the effort that is being done, on the medicine that you apply."

He said Australia was an important and like-minded regional partner.

"So I hope that this can be done and it can go back to a more normal situation. And I hope that this can happen sooner rather than later."

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom, Michael Martina and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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