G7 nations to take tougher line on trade with China

BERLIN (AP) — The Group of Seven major economies have agreed to take a tougher, more coordinated stance toward China when it comes to trade, Germany’s economy minister said Thursday.

After a two-day meeting with fellow G-7 officials, Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection Robert Habeck told reporters that discussions about China were part of an effort to ensure high international trade standards and to prevent Beijing from using its economic might to steamroll other nations.

“The naivety toward China is over,” Habeck said, referring to Germany's own position on China. “The time when one said ‘Trade, no matter what,' regardless of the social or humanitarian standards, ... is something we shouldn't allow ourselves anymore.”

He said Germany would work to persuade the European Union to establish “a more robust trade policy toward China and respond as Europeans to the coercive measures that China takes to protect its economy.”

“The other partner countries will do exactly the same,” Habeck said, adding that the G-7 members - which also include Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan and the United States - agreed to coordinate their respective actions.

In a joint statement following the meeting at Neuhardenberg Palace, east of Berlin, the G-7 didn't explicitly name China.

The statement expressed concerns about “unfair practices, such as all forms of forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft, lowering of labor and environmental standards to gain competitive advantage, market-distorting actions of state-owned enterprises, and harmful industrial subsidies, including those that lead to excess capacity.”

The group also pledged to continue seeking a reform of the World Trade Organization. The United States has been particularly wary of subjecting itself to the Geneva-based body's jurisdiction on trade matters.