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EU economy risks ‘knockout blow’ over China policy – member state

Hungary opposes measures aimed at cutting ties between East and West, its foreign minister says

The EU should pursue cooperation with China and Asia as a whole, which have already become more competitive than the bloc in economic terms, according to Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.

Speaking at an informal meeting of EU trade ministers in Valencia on Friday, Szijjarto emphasized that the global economy has turned upside down over the past few years, resulting in a fall in the bloc’s economic position, which Brussels is making worse with its indiscriminate sanctions policies. He reiterated that recent sanctions against Russia and the drive to abandon Russian energy “shot the European economy first in the foot and then in the knee.” 

“Today we pay four times as much for gas in Europe as Americans do at home and three times as much for electricity as people pay in China,” he pointed out, noting that while distancing itself from Russia has already caused problems, doing the same with China would be even more destructive for the EU economy.

Szijjarto noted that China has already surpassed the EU in terms of gross domestic product (GDP): its share of global GDP jumped from 9% in 2010 to the current 18%, while the EU’s share dropped from 22% to 17%.

“The overall structure of the world economy is being transformed, and this great transformation also means that the West’s automatic competitive advantage has ended. The Eastern world has strengthened significantly, they have at the very least caught up with the Western world from a financial and technological point of view, while they have always been ahead of us in terms of human resources,” he stated. Szijjarto added that the Eastern and Western economies are more strongly interdependent nowadays than ever before, and said the EU should not shy away from this trend.

“Whether we like it or not, it’s a fact. Whoever denies all this can cause very serious damage to the European economy,” he warned.

Szijjarto noted that the basis of the EU’s economic growth previously lay in the combination of advanced Western technologies and cheap Russian energy, but this line of cooperation has now been severed.

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“Unfortunately, there are Western Europeans… who strive to cut off economic cooperation between Europe and China in the same way. If this were to happen, it would practically be a knockout blow to the European economy. That is why we are against any effort to isolate the Chinese and European economies from each other,” he stated.

The minister said the consequences of such actions would be especially felt by the European automotive industry, which relies on Chinese suppliers.

“This would practically suffocate the car industry. And if we strangle the European car industry, we will destroy the European economy,” he declared.

“Everyone in the economy understands this, but Western European politicians don’t want to see the reality, they don’t want to hear the facts, but rather they politicize out of ideology and anger.” 

The EU relationship with China has been strained over the past several years, with Brussels viewing Beijing as an economic rival, and each side increasingly unhappy with the other’s policies.

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