China-EU special summit to have trade focus, as US election looms
- Extraordinary summit will prioritise EU-China investment agreement, source reveals
- Talks by video between President Xi Jinping and some European leaders come as EU plots its path through US-China rivalry
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are expected to join the September 14 summit, alongside Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen, presidents of the European Council and European Commission respectively.
“The priority of the special summit is going to be on concluding the EU-China investment agreement by the end of this year,” an EU source briefed on the matter said.
Still under discussion, the September summit could be scaled down from the originally planned face-to-face meeting with the heads of government of all 27 EU member states, which increasingly view Beijing as a “systemic rival” rather than a partner.
Xi’s talks with Michel and Von der Leyen in June came during China’s regular summit with the EU. The one in September is known as an extraordinary summit.
Given that Germany currently holds the rotating EU presidency, Merkel had initially wanted to invite Xi for a physical meeting in the German city of Leipzig to foster longer-term EU-China relations. That plan was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
EU policymakers and diplomats have signalled that they would not accept an investment agreement without Chinese commitment to give European businesses greater market access or create a level playing field between European and Chinese companies in China.
EU ‘deplores’ China’s decision to enact national security law for Hong Kong
The fact that elections for Hong Kong’s legislature have been delayed for a year from the original date of September 6 also gave EU officials a lower sense of urgency.
Another issue Merkel could focus on is climate change. EU policymakers believe China has failed to live up to expectations to do more as the world’s biggest carbon dioxide polluter.
The bloc itself is trying to ensure that post-Covid-19 economic stimulus plans for its member states go hand in hand with sustainable and climate-conscious developments.