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Europe and U.S. Agree on Chinese Threat, but Are Too Busy Feuding to Fight It

Category: Asia,World

The decision in Brussels last month to give the European Union more power to block such acquisitions was, in large part, inspired by the Kuka deal and the inability of political leaders to protect sensitive technology.

European leaders are also worried that China is trying to disrupt European unity. Since 2012, China has been holding summit meetings with 11 eastern European Union countries and five Balkan countries, an effort called 16+1. The group’s stated purpose is to promote business ties and investment. One example is a project to upgrade freight transport facilities in the Bulgarian port of Burgas on the Black Sea.

But 16+1 is also seen as an attempt to exploit tensions between wealthier Western European countries and formerly Communist countries like Hungary. Unlike Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, the Chinese do not nag Viktor Orban, Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister, about policies that are seen as a threat to democracy. A bank controlled by the Chinese government is financing improvements to the rail line between Belgrade and Budapest.

So even if the United States and Europe share many of the same objections to Chinese economic policy, they are far apart on what to do about it. Mr. Trump has used tariffs and threats of tariffs to put pressure on China, and has been unconventional in his approach. Mr. Trump sees international trade as a deal, by him and with him, to be made personally with President Xi Jinping of China.

The Europeans want to preserve the World Trade Organization as the forum to resolve conflicts. Last month the European Commission proposed changes to the organization’s rules that were drawn up in part to allay American concerns about the panel that adjudicates trade disputes. The reforms would place limits on the legal issues the appeals panel can consider, a response to complaints by the United States that it often oversteps its mandate.

The proposals found an unlikely ally. China was among 11 other countries that backed the reforms. The United States did not. A spokeswoman for the United States mission in Geneva, where the trade organization is based, declined to comment.

“That’s what we try to tell our American friends,” Ms. Malmstrom, the European trade commissioner, told a small group of reporters at a briefing in Brussels last month, two weeks after returning from talks in Washington. “Let’s work together. When we work together we have a lot of impact.”

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