The European Union’s top diplomat said Friday the trade imbalance between the bloc and China has caused trust to erode between them and warned it could affect public opinion and drive them further apart.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell made the comments in a speech Friday at Peking University in Beijing. Borrell is on the second day of a three-day visit to China to discuss bilateral relations, global challenges and trade with the EU’s largest trading partner.

Borrell said it was in the interest of both the EU and China to find common ground on the trade imbalance, as it is beginning to drive public opinion, putting pressure on political leaders to “de-risk” or disengage from China.

He indicated that the imbalance is the result of “persistent difficulties experienced by European companies when they want to gain access to the Chinese market.”

“China tells us all the time we are strategic partners, we’re not rivals. In reality, we are both. We’re both. We are partners and we are rivals, and we’re also competitors, in some areas,” he said.

Despite their considerable differences, Borrell said there is a lot of room for China and the EU to work together and rebuild trust. He said China and the EU have a great deal of economic interdependency, and they need to make that “interdependency less conflictual.”

“The world cannot afford China and the European Union not sharing the same efforts to solve the great problems of mankind,” he added.

Regarding Taiwan, Borrell said while the EU has bilateral ties with the self-ruling island, that did not imply political recognition as an independent country.

Borrell called on China to keeping channels of communication open to prevent misunderstandings and to de-escalate tensions.

China views Taiwan as part of its territory and vows to reunite with the island democracy through force if necessary. Beijing opposes high-level interactions between Taiwan and other countries and repeatedly has deployed military aircraft and naval vessels to areas near Taiwan as part of its intimidation campaign.

The EU diplomat also added that it was essential for Beijing to let the people of Ukraine know that China is not Russia’s ally in this unprovoked war and called on them to step up humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.