Chinese President Xi Jinping criticised protectionism on Monday at a summit positioning Beijing as a champion of globalisation, but several European nations spoilt attempts to win full backing for his trade agenda.
Xi addressed almost 30 leaders on the second day of a forum on his new Silk Road plan, a huge infrastructure project intended to revive ancient land and sea trade routes from Asia to Europe and Africa.
"Globalisation is encountering some headwinds," Xi told leaders from countries ranging from Spain to Turkey, Russia and Pakistan at a convention centre near the Great Wall on the outskirts of Beijing. "We need to seek results through greater openness and cooperation, avoid fragmentation, refrain from setting inhibitive thresholds for cooperation or pursuing exclusive arrangements, and reject protectionism."
He compared countries to "swan and geese" that can "fly long and safely through winds and storms because they move in tandem and help each other as a team".
The Chinese leader is using the international gathering to promote his signature foreign policy project, the One Belt, One Road initiative.
China has defended globalisation at a time when the US is retreating into "America First" policies on trade and foreign relations under President Donald Trump.
While some see Beijing's project as a geopolitical powerplay, Xi has insisted that the Belt and Road is open to everybody.[arve url="https://youtu.be/LhIy19AFBEc"/]
But in a setback to Xi's effort to gain full support, several EU countries, France, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Portugal and Britain, indicated they would not sign one of the summit documents on trade.
The text on trade is one of the statements that are expected to be published at the end of the summit later Monday, along with the final communique.
A diplomat who requested anonymity said the EU countries believe the text does not sufficiently address European concerns on transparency of public procurement and social and environmental standards.
China only presented the document to negotiators last week, telling them it could no longer be reworked, according to the official.
On Sunday German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries called for transparency to ensure that the calls for investment bids are "non-discriminatory".
"I think there is still room for improvement in this area," Zypries said.
While Greece and Britain are among the nations that refused to sign up to the document, both countries publicly praised Xi's overall project.
Europeans are not the only ones voicing concerns.
India also skipped the summit as it voiced displeasure at the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a Belt and Road project aimed at linking northwestern China to the Arabian Sea.
The route cuts through Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, disputed territory that India claims is illegally occupied.