European Union

EU and China need closer ties urgently to offset trade disruption, says bloc’s new ambassador in Beijing

Greater accord needed on issues such as trade and investment to consolidate ‘foundation’ of a global power triangle the two sides form with the US, says Nicolas Chapuis

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 September, 2018, 7:29pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 September, 2018, 7:38pm

The European Union and China must urgently strengthen relations to “alleviate the disruption” to the global economy, the EU’s new top envoy to China has said, as Beijing’s trade war with the US continues.

Nicolas Chapuis, the new EU ambassador to China, also called for progress in discussions between China and the EU about reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), ongoing negotiation of a China-EU investment treaty and an agreement on protecting the intellectual property of European and Chinese products.

“In this shifting of the global situation, Europe must bring, with China, the building blocks of stability and prosperity,” said Chapuis at a press conference in Beijing, his first media appearance, on Friday. “This is not only important to the EU and China. It is crucial to the rest of the world.

“In the triangulation between the US, China and the EU – between the three largest economic powers of this planet – the urgency is to strengthen the foundation of the triangle, which I think is Europe and China.”

Chapuis said the EU would seek a larger role as a key player in global politics and would work more closely with China to achieve that.

“To do this, engaging China for us is an absolute must,” he said, adding that the EU needs to discuss more with China on global governance and globalisation.

China and the EU had been working closely on issues related to the peace processes in Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan, he added. 

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During the US presidency of Donald Trump, European leaders have repeatedly questioned the reliability of the transatlantic alliance and looked to countries such as China as new partners in international affairs.

The escalating trade war with Washington has led Beijing to seek to draw the EU closer in the hope of preventing it forming a united front with the US, or, better still, have the EU join its side.

The new EU envoy said Brussels and Beijing “can do a lot to alleviate the disruptions we are seeing today in trade and the global economy”.

“[With] China being a global engine of growth in the world, disruptions of that engine will bring threats not only to China but to the rest of the world,” Chapuis said.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will visit Brussels next month for the Asia-Europe summit. The two sides are expected to hold further discussion of reforms to the WTO after a joint working group was announced in July following a China-EU summit in Beijing.

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But the EU has its own tensions with China regarding concerns over unbalanced trade and investment, including pushbacks against Chinese takeovers of sensitive European technologies.

Chapuis said it was normal for two big economies to have “frictions and tensions” but the EU remained open to Chinese investments.

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“We do not want less Chinese investment; we want more,” he said. “But we want to make sure … these investments [are] sustainable, create jobs, benefit the people of our countries, and don’t entail our national security interests.”

He also said the EU wants to lift barriers to foreign investment in industrial, agricultural and services sectors in China.