April 5, 2017 / 11:25 AM / 6 months ago

Xi says China, Finland to increase cooperation under China-EU framework

China's President Xi Jinping and Finland's President Sauli Niinisto shake hands during the signing ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland April 5, 2017. Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen/via REUTERS

HELSINKI (Reuters) - China and Finland will increase cooperation under the China-European Union framework, President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday after arriving in Finland for his first visit as head of state.

Xi is due to meet U.S. President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida later this week.

Like China, the Nordics, home to blue chips like Finnish telecom equipment maker Nokia and Swedish truck maker Volvo, stand to lose out if Trump’s pledge to put “America first” increases global protectionism.

For China, the visit to eurozone member Finland is a chance to shore up support in Europe, its biggest trading partner.

European diplomats have said China has launched a charm offensive with the European Union since Trump took office, shifting its stance on trade negotiations and signaling closer cooperation on a range of other issues.

After meeting Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Xi said China and Finland will “seize the opportunity of Finland’s rotating chairmanship of the Arctic Council to enhance cooperation in Arctic affairs and promote environmental protection and sustainable development of the Arctic.”

The countries also said they would support the launch of a joint feasibility study on an EU-China free trade agreement when conditions were right and step up high-tech trade cooperation.

“China continues to raise its profile as a defender of free trade,” said Jyrki Kallio, researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

“Both Finland and China share the same concern about the negative effects on the global economy if Trump’s action ignites a trade war between China and the United States.”

Niinisto said the two heads of state also discussed North Korea, which test-fired a ballistic missile into the sea on Wednesday.

Reporting by Tuomas Forsell; additional reporting by Michael Martina, Philip Wen and Judy Hua in Beijing; writing by Niklas Pollard and Christian Shepherd

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