Chinese premier praises EU, says free trade must be upheld

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at The Great Hall of People on March 3, 2018 in Beijing, China.

Lintao Zhang | Pool | Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at The Great Hall of People on March 3, 2018 in Beijing, China.

The Chinese premier says free trade and international cooperation must be upheld to avoid slowing down the global economy.

Premier Li Keqiang also praised the European Union, calling the 28-member bloc an “indispensable force” and very important for global peace, stability and prosperity.

Li, China’s No. 2 leader behind President Xi Jinping, spoke Saturday in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, during a meeting with 16 countries from central and eastern Europe, amid escalating trade battles between the United States and China.

The summit is part of China’s “New Silk Road” bid to boost its influence in Europe through investments and closer economic links.

Li said: “Unity between China and Europe and cooperation between us can ensure peace and stability in the whole world.”

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