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China-EU relations face challenges, Xi tells Germany’s Merkel

BEIJING/BERLIN (Reuters) -President Xi Jinping told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday that he saw “various challenges” in relations between China and the European Union and hoped the EU could “independently” make correct judgements, a Chinese government statement said.

The statement quoted Xi as saying during a phone call that the EU and China should respect each other and “eliminate interference”, adding that China is willing to work with the global community to promote “fair and reasonable distribution” of COVID-19 vaccines and opposes vaccine nationalism.

Last month, the EU imposed its first significant sanctions against Chinese officials since 1989 over alleged human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region. Beijing, which denies the allegations, hit back by blacklisting some EU lawmakers and entities.

The United States, Britain and Canada also sanctioned Chinese officials over Xinjiang, and the row threatens to derail an EU-China investment pact agreed in late 2020 after years of negotiations.

German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said Merkel and Xi had discussed international efforts to produce and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, deepen economic cooperation and steps to protect the climate and biodiversity.

She said the leaders agreed to deepen bilateral ties in Sino-German government consultations planned for late April.

“The Chancellor stressed the importance of dialogue on the full range of ties, including issues on which there are different opinions,” Demmer said, without giving details of the areas where Germany and China differ.

(Reporting by Beijing newsroom and Michael Nienaber in Berlin; writing by Tom Daly; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Steve Orlofsky and Timothy Heritage)

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