March 21, 2019 / 7:38 PM / a month ago

France's Macron to host Xi, Merkel and Junker at March 26 meeting

French President Emmanuel Macron prepares to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium March 21, 2019. Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Pool via Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Emmanuel Macron will host Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as the leaders of Germany and the European Union’s executive arm at a March 26 meeting to discuss multilateral relations between Europe and China, a French presidency official said.

The talks will focus on trade, climate and China-European relations, the official said. France wants a more coordinated EU approach to China, rather than member countries focusing on bilateral relations.

The meeting comes at a time when the EU is weighing a more defensive strategy on China, spurred by China’s slowness to open up its economy, Chinese takeovers in critical sectors and a feeling in European capitals that Beijing has not stood up for free trade.

“This meeting is a first step,” the Elysee official said, adding that the meeting would help lay the groundwork for concrete results at an EU-China summit on April 9.

Macron, arriving at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday, spoke of a “European awakening” that China is seeking to produce sophisticated products that will compete with those made in Europe.

“Since the beginning of my mandate I’ve been calling for a real awareness and for the defense of European sovereignty,” Macron told reporters.

Reporting by Richard Lough; editing by John Irish

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