EU plans summit with China on April 1 to address tensions

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European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis attend a press conference of Read-out of the College meeting during a debate on Poland's challenge to the supremacy of EU laws at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, October 19, 2021. Ronald Wittek/Pool via REUTERS

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BRUSSELS, Feb 28 (Reuters) - The European Union will hold a summit with China on April 1 in an attempt to diffuse growing tensions between the two, European Commission Vice-President and EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis said on Monday.

"We know we are in a complicated phase of relations with China," Dombrovskis told the trade committee of the European Parliament.

Dombrovskis referred to an investment agreement struck with China that has stalled after Beijing imposed sanctions on some members of the parliament and a dispute between China and Lithuania after the latter allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in Vilnius.

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"It is clear that some of those topics need to be addressed at the highest political level to see to what extent we can align and improve our cooperation," Dombrovskis said.

The summit is likely to be virtual rather than in person, an EU official said.

The European Union regards China as a strategic rival in some fields, but a partner in areas such as fighting climate change. It also wants to bring China on board in its push to reform trade rules at the World Trade Organization.

Dombrovskis did not say whether Russia's invasion of Ukraine would feature in the upcoming summit, but acknowledged there was a risk that a tighter China-Russia alignment could emerge from the conflict.

"Actually there are signs that it is already happening," the commissioner said.

"As you also know, China is taking a very careful approach in this conflict. They are clearly not following the Western democratic world example and putting pressure on China. The risk is there."

It is normal to have differences as China and the EU are at different development stages, Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao said.

"China's development is an opportunity, not a challenge, to the European Union," Wang said at a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday.

"Cooperation between the two is bigger than competition."

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Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Additional reporting by Albee Zhang; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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