Before meeting with US President Joe Biden, one of Brussels' top two leaders defended the European Union's efforts to secure an investment pact with China.
The European Council president, Charles Michel, will meet Biden at this weekend's G7 conference in Cornwall before welcoming him to Brussels for EU-US talks next week.
Speaking to reporters before of the summits, Michel emphasised that Biden's efforts to repair ties represent a return to a "solid collaboration" after tensions during the Trump administration.
In addition, he emphasised that Europe would not "paper over our core principles, freedoms, and human rights" in negotiations with an increasingly assertive China.
We want to rebalance our economic ties with China "he said in an interview with a group of reporters, including AFP, late Monday.
"We have decided in recent years to allow access to our single market," he remarked, referring to China's recent economic incursions into Europe.
"However, there is a lack of reciprocity and fairness, which is why we attempted to accelerate the negotiations in respect to this investment agreement last year.
"I realise there's a democratic debate in Europe about this investment deal," Michel added, "but I'm persuaded personally that what's on the table is a major step in the right way."
"For the first time, we are taking steps to promote investment by European companies, and the Chinese authorities have declared obligations on social rights based on this proposed agreement."
- Tit for tat penalties -
After seven years of rigorous negotiations, the European Union executive and China won political approval for a massive investment accord late last year, mainly to a final push by main export economy Germany.
However, the European Commission has paused efforts to ratify the agreement after Beijing imposed fines and travel bans on European politicians and academics.
The CAI has also raised alarms in Washington, where Vice President Biden's team aims to unite America's traditional friends to help restrict China's rise.
Far from wanting stronger economic links with China, Biden last week enlarged a blacklist of Chinese enterprises that are off-limits to US investment.
Michel stressed that Europe is not being foolish in its relations with China and that it wants to collaborate with Washington in a liberal democracy alliance.
"In a nutshell, what is the United States' position?" he questioned rhetorically.
"It's extremely similar to the one in Europe. Explaining that China is a competitor, but that it is also crucial to cooperate with China when necessary."