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EU says China is a systemic rival, human rights is main issue

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An attendant walks past EU and China flags ahead of the EU-China High-level Economic Dialogue at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

BRUSSELS, June 15 (Reuters) - China's record on human rights is the main issue that divides it from the European Union and makes it a systemic rival for the bloc, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday.

"We are strong economic competitors, without any questions, and for that we need tools," the head of the EU's executive told a news conference after talks with U.S. President Joe Biden.

"We need tools for security within the digital market - for example the 5G toolbox - but also foreign direct investment, investment screening ... to ensure that there is a level playing field."

"When it comes to the system itself, it is human rights and human dignity ... that is the main issue that clearly divides us," von der Leyen added.

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Reporting by Marine Strauss and John Chalmers

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