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EU-China Summit, credit: Consilium

EU-China Summit 14 September

A second EU-China video summit inside three months saw some movement on the long-running negotiations on a bilateral investment agreement. The EU (von der Leyen, Michel and Merkel) acknowledged that progress had been made on rules for SOEs, forced technology transfer and market access. But von der Leyen told President Xi that further measures were necessary on food standards, financial services and the digital economy if the EU was going to ink a deal by the end of the year as planned. Critics note that there was no discussion on an action plan that might have included benchmarks related to a timetable.

Von der Leyen said the EU was disappointed at China’s lack of commitment to WTO reform, especially on industrial subsidies.

Prior to the video summit the there was an agreement on geographical indications (GIs) to safeguard 100 top food products from each side. Under the agreement European food exports will benefit from easier market access and protection in China.

On climate the EU called on China to enhance its carbon emissions reduction commitments, reduce its dependency on coal and to set a domestic goal for climate neutrality (50% of global CO2 emissions comes from China’s coal plants).

At the summit the EU maintained its strong criticism of Chinese behaviour in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. President Xi agreed that there should be a live human rights dialogue later in the year and held out the prospect of an EU visit to Xinjiang.

Both sides agreed to continue cooperation on research to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 10 September the EU and China also held a high-level digital dialogue with Vestager leading for the EU and Vice premier Liu He for China. Sources say that the meeting was remarkably frank with detailed discussions on ICT, AI, product safety of online sales, and digital taxation. China has also launched its own data security initiative in response to the EU’s GPRD.

The 27 EU leaders will now discuss relations with China at their next summit at the end of September. Public opinion in Europe is souring on China and the basic problem remains the difficulty of finding common ground between an open European market economy and an authoritarian state-led economic system. At the same time China has recovered faster than any other major country from Covid-19 and is set to grow at just under 2% this year – something other G7 countries can only dream of.

The EU press statement can be accessed here.

The day after the summit, Reinhard Butikofer, the chair of the EP delegation for relations with China, gave his assessment of the summit and prospects for EU-China relations in an EUAC webinar which can be accessed here.

/// OP-ED
Credit: Europarl Multimedia Centre

EU-US Cooperation on Asia

By Fraser Cameron

How will a Biden administration seek to work with the EU on Asia? Assuming Joe Biden wins on 3 November there will be a sea change in attitudes towards transatlantic relations. Biden likes Europe, knows Europe and is keen to work with Europe. Biden will make it easier to cooperate with the EU by reaffirming the US commitment to the multilateral system. He has stated that the US will re-join the Paris climate change agreements, UNESCO and the WHO, extend the Start arms control agreement with Russia, and support the Iran nuclear deal. All this will be music to European ears. Biden has been more careful on trade but one can expect a firm commitment to reforming the WTO.


EU leaders endorse China strategy

At the European Council on 1-2 October, EU leaders confirmed the multi-faceted approach towards China – and agreed to hold a special meeting on China in Berlin on 16 November. It also looked forward to a meeting of all 27 with President Xi next year.

The conclusions on China welcomed the signature of the agreement on Geographical Indications but stressed the need to rebalance the economic relationship and achieve reciprocity. It recalled the goal of finalising, by the end of this year, negotiations for ‘an ambitious EU-China Comprehensive Investment Agreement (CAI) that addresses the current asymmetries in market access, contributes to a level playing field, and establishes meaningful commitments on sustainable development. It also calls on China to deliver on previous commitments to address market access barriers, to make progress on overcapacity and engage in negotiations on industrial subsidies at the World Trade Organization.’

Thumbnail, 21 October Webinar

21 October Webinar: US Policy Towards Asia after the Election

On 21 October, the EU-Asia Centre invited Walter Lohman, Director for Asian Studies, the Heritage Foundation, Washington DC to discuss on scenarios for US policy towards Asia after the election. Walter Lohman is one of the leading analysts on Asia in the US having worked for many years as a staffer on Capitol Hill as well as the Executive Director of the US-ASEAN Business Council.

Jim Moran (Senior Advisor, EU-Asia Centre) will chaired the discussion.

The recording of the webinar discussion is available here.