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China remains confident in EU future after Brexit

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Tuesday China hoped for a “powerful” European Union and he had faith it would develop despite Britain’s vote to leave.

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“China firmly supports the process of EU integration and believes that the EU’s development will not stop, and furthermore is willing to see a stable, flourishing, and powerful EU,” Li said during a summit of Chinese and European leaders.

“This suits EU-China cooperation, and also suits China’s interests,” Li said.

The two-day China-EU summit, which began on Tuesday, is the fist meetings between Chinese and European Union leaders since the British vote to leave the EU in a June 23 referendum.

European leaders have sought to allay Chinese fears that Britain’s withdrawal, known as “Brexit”, would harm economic ties between China and the EU and cause economic instability.

Li said last month Brexit had increased uncertainty in the global economy and China wanted to see a united and stable EU.

Relations between Britain and China have been warming over the past few years and economic links have multiplied, in what both countries refer to as a “golden age” in ties promoted by President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Cameron, who campaigned to remain in the EU, announced his resignation after the referendum.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, stressed the importance of adhering to international rules when it comes to trade.

The EU has criticised China for adopting what it sees as unfair policies to protect its companies while denying market access and equal treatment to European companies. China denies that.

Tusk also pointed to “differences of opinion” between China and the EU on human rights and the rule of law.

“I stress the importance for the European Union of the freedom of the press, the freedom of expression, association and assembly, including for minorities,” he said.

China says human rights are its domestic affair and other countries should refrain from offering opinions on the matter.

Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Robert Birsel