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China and EU hold talks on AI, cross-border data flow amid renewed tensions

file photo: french president macron on state visit in china
File photo: China’s President Xi Jinping, his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meet in Beijing, China April 6, 2023

China and the European Union held talks on topics including artificial intelligence and cross-border data flows on Monday in Beijing, amid disputes over an EU probe into China’s electric vehicle (EV) subsidies.

The talks were part of an EU-China High-level Digital Dialogue co-chaired by China’s Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing and the European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova, the first of such dialogue in three years, the European Commission said in a statement.

The meeting comes as tensions between China and the EU are heightened after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced an investigation into whether to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese EVs to protect EU producers.

Beijing criticised the probe as a “protectionist act” and warned it would damage economic relations.

The talks on Monday covered key issues including platforms and data regulation, AI, and cross-border flow of industrial data, China and the EU said.

The European Commission conveyed concerns about “difficulties faced by EU companies in China to make use of their industrial data, as a result of the application of recent legislation.”

The statement did not elaborate on which legislation it was referring to. China expanded its counter-espionage law in July, with wide-ranging updates including banning the transfer of any information related to national security and broadening the definition of spying.

Zhang told the meeting that China welcomes companies from all over the world, including Europe, to share the development opportunities of its digital economy and achieve win-win results, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Both sides agreed to promote an open, fair and non-discriminatory environment for the development of the digital economy, Xinhua said.

The two parties also discussed other topics including research and innovation, information and communication technology, and safety of products sold online.

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