EU-China pledge closer relationship at Beijing summit

Written by Martin Banks on 16 July 2018 in News

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says the EU and China “can do so much more” in forging closer trade and economic ties.

Photo credit: Fotolia

Juncker was speaking on Monday in Beijing as the EU and China held their 20th summit.

Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk represented the EU at the summit, with Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, and transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc also participating. 

In a statement released after the meeting, the EU and China reaffirmed their “unequivocal commitment” to the implementation of the Paris climate agreement and to establish a closer partnership on climate action and the clean energy transition.

The two sides also committed to step up their cooperation towards low greenhouse gas emission economies.

Commenting on the joint declaration, Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe said, “This statement is an important milestone to ensure the urgently needed substantial increase in global climate action. 

“Building on the overachievement of their existing targets, and the momentum in the EU in support of going well beyond the Paris pledge, increased cooperation on climate action between the EU and China can propel the global zero carbon transition.

“We call upon the two sides to put their statements into action and scale up their respective Paris climate pledges in order to be able to reach the long-term commitment of the Paris agreement to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C.”

Elsewhere, BusinessEurope called on both sides to make progress on key issues, including the negotiations on the comprehensive agreement on investment, reducing overcapacity and the agreement on geographical indications. 

The group said China “is an important market for European companies and it is important that the business environment keeps up with business needs.”

On China’s business environment, Pierre Gattaz, President of BusinessEurope, said, “We recognise that China is making an effort to open more to foreign companies, but both, longstanding and new trade barriers prevent our companies from taking full advantage of business opportunities in China. 

“Making substantial progress in the negotiations for the comprehensive agreement on investment is key to bring the relationship between the EU and China one step forward and would be an important signal for business.”

Gattaz said that flagship projects like Made in China 2025 and the Belt and Road Initiative “should also be more inclusive.”

“European business wants to contribute positively and is ready to engage with China and make these initiatives a win-win for European and Chinese companies. But China should involve

European companies from an early stage, using transparent procurement processes and clear rules. Equal access and a level playing field are key to make these initiatives successful.”

Gattaz went on, “The EU and China should also cooperate to fight protectionism and maintain rules-based trade. Both economies have largely benefited from trade and open markets and have an interest in keeping a world trading system that is stable and predictable but also effective.

“There is a role for the EU and China to defend the system by proposing reform. For example, by delivering rules in new growth areas like e-commerce and being more effective in addressing market distortions created by state subsidies and state-owned enterprises. 

“By working together and convincing other important trading partners that the system can be reformed for the benefit of all, we will be able to fight protectionism while promoting more modern and effective trading rules”, Gattaz added.

After the summit, Juncker said, “I have always been a strong believer in the potential of the EU-China partnership. And in today's world that partnership is more important than ever before. Our cooperation simply makes sense.”

He added, “Europe is China’s largest trading partner and China is our second largest. The trade in goods between us is worth over €1.5bn every single day. But we also know that we can do so much more. 

“This is why it is so important that today we have made progress on the comprehensive agreement on investment through a first exchange of offers on market access, and towards an agreement on Geographical Indications. That shows that we want to create more opportunities for people in China and in Europe.”

In the margins of the summit, Juncker also participated in the EU-China business roundtable. 

Other “concrete deliverables” were also agreed, including a statement on clean energy and a partnership agreement on oceans and a comprehensive agreement investment.

The two sides also reached an agreement to conclude before the end of October, if possible, the negotiations on an agreement on geographical indications.

An agreement in this area would, said the EU, “result in a high level of protection of our respective Geographical Indications, which represent important traditions and rich resources for both the EU and China.

“With the protection and improvement of human rights at the very core of the European Union and its global partnerships, the two sides’ leaders also addressed issues relating to human rights, a week after the EU and China held their latest human rights dialogue.”

Further reaction came from Tusk who said, “We discussed foreign and security cooperation and the situation in our respective neighbourhoods. We reiterated our support for the peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue through diplomatic means, and for a complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. We are also united in our commitment to the continued, full and effective implementation of the Iran nuclear deal.

“And we will also discuss the situation in our neighbourhood, including in Ukraine. I will repeat our position that the only way to a sustainable solution to the conflict is through the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.

“On human rights, it is not always easy to find agreement as differences persist. But we agreed to enhance exchanges in follow up to the recent Human Rights Dialogue.”

The summit came on the same day as US President Trump and Russian President Putin met in Helsinki. 

Tusk said, “We are all aware of the fact that the architecture of the world is changing before our very eyes. And it is our common responsibility to make it a change for the better. Let us remember, here in Beijing, and over there, in Helsinki, that the world we were building for decades, sometimes through disputes, has brought about peace for Europe, the development of China, and the end of the Cold War between the East and the West. 

“It is a common duty of Europe and China, America and Russia, not to destroy this order, but to improve it. Not to start trade wars, which turned into hot conflicts so often in our history, but to bravely and responsibly reform the rules-based international order.”

Tusk added, “This is why I am calling on our Chinese hosts, but also on Presidents Trump and Putin to jointly start this process from a reform of the WTO. There is still time to prevent conflict and chaos. 

“Today we are facing a dilemma: whether to play a tough game such as tariff wars and conflicts in places like Ukraine and Syria, or to look for common solutions based on fair rules. This is why responsibility, predictability, spirit of cooperation and respect for our common rules and commitments are so important these days.”

The former Polish Prime Minister added, “The EU is committed to working towards the modernisation of the WTO and calls on all partners to contribute positively to this goal. We propose a comprehensive approach to improving, together with like-minded partners, the functioning of the WTO in crucial areas. 

“We need new rules in the field of industrial subsidies, intellectual property and forced technology transfers, reduction of trade costs, as well as a new approach to development and more effective dispute settlement. The aim of this reform should be to strengthen the WTO as an institution and to ensure a level playing field.”

Meanwhile, delegates from Parliament’s internal market and consumer protection committee were in Shanghai and Guangzhou this week to discuss product safety and standards, market surveillance, consumer protection, customs, and public procurement, among other topics, with Chinese authorities and organisations. 

The delegation will also look into digital single market initiatives, such as on the digital environment and eCommerce.


About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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