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EU-China Summit

EU Summits with China and Japan

23 July 2018

EU Summits with China and Japan

EU leaders took part in two important summits in Beijing and Tokyo in mid-July. In Beijing, Tusk and Juncker met with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Kequiang to review the international scene as well as bilateral relations. Both the EU and China have been buffeted by the imposition of US tariffs and a sense of unease due to the unpredictable nature of President Trump.

The top priority was discussions on how to save the multilateral system. Following a recent visit by Vice President Katainen, who also attended the summit, the two sides have established a working group on the future of the WTO, including how to tackle the sensitive issue of industrial subsidies.  China’s over-capacity in steel production remains a difficult issue. Leaders discussed how to take these issues forward in light of Trump’s assault on the global trading system. 

Trade Commissioner Malmstrom pushed for greater reciprocity and an open, predictable, fair and transparent business environment for European companies in China. 

The slow-moving bilateral investment agreement negotiations will be boosted by the summit agreeing an exchange of offers on geographical indications and market access. These moves were also welcomed at the parallel EU-China Business summit.

Connectivity was also be on the agenda with leaders seeking synergies between China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the EU’s upcoming strategy on Europe Asia Connectivity. An agreement on customs cooperation was also signed. 

There was a review of progress on the implementation of the Paris climate change accords and a new agreement on emissions trading.

One area where there has been considerable progress is on ocean management   and an ocean partnership was concluded at the summit. Leaders also welcomed the launching of new EU-China dialogues on drugs and humanitarian cooperation. 

On the foreign policy front, the agenda covered the Iran deal, North Korea, Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Africa. The discussions showed that on many issues the EU and China are in closer consort than with the US.


After Beijing, Juncker and Tusk flew on to meet Prime Minister Abe in Japan. He was supposed to visit Brussels for the summit but the visit was postponed because of the floods in Japan. The EU leaders swiftly offered to make the short hop from Bejing to sign the momentous free trade agreement and an accompanying strategic partnership agreement. According to Juncker, this will be the biggest FTA in the past 20 years, and a clear indication of the commitment of both partners to a rules-based, global trading system.

The summits with China and Japan, as well as the opening of trade talks this month with Australia and New Zealand, are a welcome sign that the EU is looking to Asia and is not totally fixated with Trump and Brexit. 


Fraser Cameron is Director of the EU-Asia Centre and a Senior Advisor with Cambre Associates.

See also

 EU-japan press statement: