European Union

Europe and China have an opportunity to turn words into action at summit

Trade and investment, climate change, foreign policy and connectivity will be top of the agenda when leaders meet in Beijing, EU ambassador to China says

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 July, 2018, 2:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 July, 2018, 10:10pm

In times of geopolitical uncertainty, the 20th EU-China summit in Beijing on Monday will be an opportunity to show that our cooperation is important not only for Europe and China, but also for the rest of the world. We must support and strengthen the open, rules-based system of global governance, which is the basis for economic prosperity and sustainable globalisation, and advance on issues like climate change, foreign policy and Eurasian connectivity.

Of course, the European Union as a global political actor and a major trading power must also pursue its legitimate interests. We have some concrete expectations concerning the direction of our future cooperation under the comprehensive strategic partnership with China.

The changing climate on trade and investment is a good moment for China to show public commitment and take concrete steps to open markets and establish a level playing field for European companies. At the summit, we expect to exchange market access offers for a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment between the EU and China. It should lead to an ambitious and comprehensive deal to open more sectors and provide investment protection above and beyond the standards already set out in the 27 existing bilateral agreements between China and EU countries.

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This summit is an opportunity for the EU and China to prove our joint support for the WTO as the centre of the rules-based multilateral trading system, and to turn words into action by filling the gaps with new rules for a future global economy where the World Trade Organisation can meet new challenges. The bilateral WTO working group – agreed in Beijing a few weeks ago by European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He – should be a place where the EU and China show that they are ready to act now, swiftly and substantially, to show that our cooperation produces more robust results.

Another of the EU’s key objectives at the summit is to take decisive steps to conclude the negotiations for a bilateral agreement on protection of geographical indications (GIs). This will allow better protection of well-known European food brands in China. Conclusion of this agreement would make it the first international trade treaty between the EU and China, and send a strong signal for future cooperation in trade and investment.

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We have also agreed to extend our cooperation under the EU-China Connectivity Platform that will convene a day before the summit. We will need to create synergies between China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” and the EU’s own approach on sustainable connectivity between Europe and Asia, and we agreed to explore complementarities and synergies in this field that is crucial for both China and the EU. The EU is currently working on a strategy for connecting Europe and Asia, to be released in the coming months.

A sign of the strength of our relationship is that the traditional economic and trade-related cooperation between the EU and China is constantly expanding in new areas: energy cooperation, circular economy and ocean governance, visa facilitation, work on illegal migration, cooperation on development and humanitarian assistance – notably in Africa, counterterrorism and cybersecurity, to name a few.

We also want to make further progress on foreign and security policy, to move from common aspirations to specific and targeted cooperation. China’s constructive engagement has helped underpin our commitment to the full and effective implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran. Similarly, the EU and China must support full denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula, the positive developments with regards to inter-Korean relations, and the dialogue between North Korea and the United States.

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Human rights are always on the summit agenda. The EU-China Human Rights Dialogue that took place on July 9 in Beijing confirmed that this is an integral, important part of our relationship – one on which there are divergences but on which we can exchange in a constructive manner.

Last but not least, in a world that is facing unprecedented climate and resource challenges, China and the EU recognise both the need for and the opportunities that come from transformation to a green, low carbon, circular economy. The EU and China are leading through action on climate, to deliver their Paris commitments by moving from words to policies and measures, such as carbon pricing and emissions trading, that cut emissions now and into the future. Both are accelerating reforms to transform a wasteful linear economy into a resource-efficient circular economy for the good of the environment, jobs and competitiveness. Together we are showing others across the world that ambitious action is possible and that it is a part of a strategy for a strong economy. We are looking forward to the joint statement on climate to be adopted at the summit, along with enhanced cooperation on emissions trading and a circular economy.

Hans Dietmar Schweisgut is the EU ambassador to China