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Press conference

EU-Korea leaders’ summit

On 30 June the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen held a video conference with President Moon Jae-in of Korea.

As 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of the EU-Republic of Korea strategic partnership, and this leaders meeting was partly to mark the occasion. It is hoped that a live summit in Seoul will take place as soon as circumstances allow. Both sides are keen to deepen their overall cooperation.

There was considerable agreement on all major issues as both partners are strongly committed to multilateralism and a rules-based approach to resolving global issues.

Tackling the Covid-19 pandemic was a central theme of the meeting. The leaders discussed deepening cooperation on research and development of vaccines and medicines and agreed that any COVID-19 vaccine should be a global common good. Both sides reiterated their support for the WHO and supported the goal of an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of lessons learned from the pandemic. There was agreement to assist developing countries in facing the consequences of the pandemic, by means including debt relief.

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medical supplies

Onshoring medical supply chains – not a good idea

By Antti Tulonen

As China, the factory of the world, went into lock-down in February, the French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire was among the first to call for “relocalising” supply chains for key industries as lack of critical parts hampered car and other production lines in Europe. Soon after, it was the alarming gaps in medical supplies that hit the headlines. By May, joining the chorus of Macron and other national politicians, even the Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton was saying that globalization may have "gone too far" for medical supplies as well as other industries. Arguably, the dramatic medical shortages in crisis added much of the emotional weight to the call for more ‘strategic sovereignty’ that otherwise could have too strong a ring of protectionism for many among the free trade champions in the EU.

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EU Ursula

Virtual EU-China Summit

The first summit on 22 June between the new EU leadership team of Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel with China’s President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang was a virtual affair because of the Covid-19 pandemic. There was no joint statement and no joint press conference.

Instead the EU issues a lengthy statement recounting its side of events. The EU side accepted that EU –China relations ‘were crucial in many areas’ but at the same time, ‘we have to recognise that we do not share the same values, political systems, or approach to multilateralism.’ For our relations to develop further, ‘they must become more rules-based and reciprocal, in order to achieve a real level playing-field.’

Foe the EU a key indicator will be progress on the long-running negotiations on an investment agreement. Whether the investment agreement will now be finalised this year is an open question. The pandemic has not helped the negotiating process although some progress has been made by video conference, including a deal on geographical indications.

But if China does not accept the principle of reciprocity, end industrial subsidies and the practice of enforced technology transfer then the barriers would go up. The Commission had already shown it means business by presenting new proposals to tackle unfair subsidies and block predatory take-overs of companies by third countries.

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15 July Webinar: The EU-China Strategic Partnership

The EU-Asia Centre and the European Policy Centre (EPC) are delighted to invite you to take part in this webinar on 15 July, moderated by Fabian Zuleeg, Chief Executive of the EPC.The speakers will be Cui Hongjian (Director for Europe, China Institute of International Studies), Maaike Okano-Heijmans (Senior Research Fellow, Clingendael Institute) and Fraser Cameron (Director, EU-Asia Centre).