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farewell Wen Jiabao

Farewell Wen Jiabao

20 September 2012

There were smiles all round at the end of the 15th EU-China summit. It was the last summit attended by Premier Wen Jiabao and his European hosts, Herman van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso were effusive in their praise for his commitment to deepening EU-China relations in the past eight years. But there were no smiles when the outgoing premier criticised the EU for failing to lift the arms embargo or grant China market economy status, two issues that have dogged the relationship for years. There was also a failure to agree even on a closing press conference.

The one-day summit focused mainly on economic developments in the EU, China and globally. European leaders outlined the measures the EU and ECB were taking to stabilise the Eurozone and deal with the deficits in several member states. They thanked the Chinese for their on-going support for the euro. The two sides agreed to intensify co-operation aimed at "restoring market confidence and fostering financial stability." 

The EU is the biggest destination for Chinese exports, which were worth €292.5 billion last year, while exports from the Union to China were worth €136.2 billion, making China the Union’s second-largest trading partner after the United States and a major source of wealth and jobs. The importance of the trade relationship makes the slowing Chinese economy and the crisis in the euro zone major concerns for both parties.

China has encouraged its firms to invest more in European firms, which help them get better foreign technology. Europe is one of the top-five sources of foreign direct investment to China (€17.8 billion in 2011). Chinese investment in Europe has grown rapidly since the 2008 crisis and amounted to €3.1 billion in 2011. The leaders also confirmed their willingness to sign an investment treaty - something Europeans would like in order to be able to invest more freely in China and have better protection for their intellectual property there.

Despite these positive trends, the EU-China relationship has come under strain in recent months amid concerns about unfair competition and differences over Syria. The European Commission has launched an investigation into alleged subsidies for exports of Chinese solar power equipment. This follows another decision to review whether China has provided export credits and other illegal subsidies to Huawei and ZTE Corp., two leading makers of mobile phone technology. But under pressure from some member states Karel De Gucht has said the investigation would be suspended pending further talks with his Chinese counterpart, Commerce Minister Chen Deming.

On Syria the EU appealed to the Chinese to side with the majority in the international community seeking a tough UN Security Council resolution to put pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to end the crackdown on the Syrian opposition.

On human rights, there was a reference to the next round of consultations being held in China, something the EU had been pushing for some time. The Chinese side also managed to insert a sentence into the statement that both sides should seek to resolve the dispute on MES in a ‘swift and comprehensive way.’

 

Although there were never any major deliverables on the table, both sides agreed to cooperate on innovation, anti-monopoly legislation, a low carbon, urbanisation and environmental sustainability programme, and a dialogue on space technology.

 

There was also a welcome to progress made on the numerous existing dialogues including energy, urbanization, cyber security, agriculture, employment, disaster management.

 

The section on foreign policy and global issues was noticeable for the inclusion of the Arctic as an area of common concern.

 

To access the full summit statement click on the pdf below



15th EU-China Summit press communique