By William Mauldin 

Republican lawmakers are pressing for a more multilateral approach to confronting China with expanded help from Europe, a strategy that dovetails with the view of the incoming Biden administration.

Republicans from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a report Wednesday on working more closely with European partners, the United Nations and other market-led democracies.

"It is our populations -- the U.S. and Europe -- that built the world order of today, not China," said Sen. Jim Risch, the chairman of the Senate committee, in an interview. "The world order that we have, based on democracy and based on the rule of law, is where this planet should go if it's going to have a future."

If Republicans retain control of the Senate, Mr. Risch will continue leading the chamber's foreign-policy committee, which President-elect Joe Biden also chaired during his Senate career. The Idaho Republican said the report wasn't timed with the election or presidential transition but that he would be willing to work with a Biden administration on confronting China with more help from Europe.

Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden transition team, said: "President-elect Biden agrees that we should stand together with our allies and partners to press China's government to curtail its economic, human rights, and other abuses. And he looks forward to working with both parties in Congress to realize that approach."

The GOP report, viewed by The Wall Street Journal, recommends putting aside differences with Europe that have rankled ties both during the Trump administration and before, including a trade dispute over government subsidies that has pitted Boeing Co. against Airbus SE, so that the two sides can work more closely together on China.

"That really needs to be resolved," Mr. Risch said of the aircraft dispute, which has continued as China seeks to build its own world-class passenger planes. "While Europe and the U.S. are pushing and shoving on the dance floor, the Chinese and the Russians are watching from the buffet table and being entertained."

Democratic and Republican views have converged on other issues related to China, with broad agreement on Beijing's human rights record, suspicion of Chinese telecommunications firms and sanctions. Lawmakers from both parties have credited Mr. Trump with helping raise awareness about the competitive threat of China, especially in trade.

Yet Mr. Trump has also confronted European countries over trade, funding for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the role of other international organizations seen by many lawmakers as important venues for challenging China.

The Trump administration's decision not to enlist broad European support against China was "a huge missed opportunity of the last four years," said Anthony Gardner, who was ambassador to the European Union under President Obama and has been advising Mr. Biden's team.

Acting unilaterally, Mr. Trump has imposed tariffs on China in an effort to strike an elusive new two-way economic arrangement, and his administration has increasingly challenged Beijing over its maritime claims in the South China Sea and sought to counter Chinese political and intelligence activities in the U.S.

The White House and State Department didn't respond to a request for comment on the Senate report. Trump administration officials have blamed allies for an unwillingness to move quickly enough when it comes to challenging China's economic or strategic moves, and some have said it makes sense for the U.S. to set a precedent before seeking to bring along allies.

Chinese officials didn't respond to a request for comment. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has sought to contrast Beijing's efforts to raise its stature in international organizations with Washington's approach. Mr. Xi, speaking Tuesday at a gathering in Beijing of leading emerging economies, denounced "unilateralism and bullying," without mentioning the U.S. or Mr. Trump by name.

The administration has made efforts to enlist partners in China's neighborhood. On an Asian tour last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned several countries that it was in their best interest to choose the U.S. market-oriented, rules-based system of commerce and international relations.

Mr. Pompeo last month helped launch a formal dialogue with Europe on confronting China after receiving an invitation from Brussels officials, and U.S. diplomats in Europe see the forum as a promising channel for the Biden administration.

U.S. officials also have worked with dozens of partner countries to agree to limit reliance on China's Huawei Technologies Co. in their 5G mobile telecommunications networks.

Some European diplomats have said a coordinated approach may allow European governments to take a tougher approach collectively to China than they could take individually, when they would run the risk of damaging bilateral ties and exposing themselves to pressure and retaliation from Beijing.

A multilateral approach also might prevent China from singling out American businesses and farmers for retaliation, as Beijing did during the trade war. Meanwhile, cooperation with Europe on technology standards and advanced manufacturing could help Western companies maintain an edge.

"Alone, the United States and Europe cannot compete with China's massive market and the large state resources the PRC is pouring into emerging technology," the Senate report says, referring to the People's Republic of China.

Daniel Michaels in Brussels contributed to this article.

Write to William Mauldin at william.mauldin@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 18, 2020 12:16 ET (17:16 GMT)

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