Despite disagreements, China and EU must pull together to boost trade, global governance
The European Union and China need to press ahead in areas of mutual benefit, such as connectivity and global governance, despite their bilateral disagreements on trade and amid an increasingly fractured global environment, speakers and participants said during heated discussions at Friends of Europe’s ninth Europe-China Forum and Policy & Practice Roundtable on 18-19 November.
Europe and China are already closely linked through trade and politics – and are becoming more so through plans including China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Europe’s own cross-border connectivity plans. But both Brussels and Beijing need to step up their game to reform and re-energise the rules-based multilateral trading system centred on the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“China and the EU are important partners for the international challenges of the times,” said Phil Hogan, European Commissioner-designate for Trade. “We have benefited enormously from the multilateral trading system, but the WTO is facing an existential crisis. The global economy can only continue if we maintain predictability and stability under a global rules-based system.”
China wants to form a free trade agreement with the EU as quickly as possible, but others caution against detracting attention from the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) which both parties agreed to conclude in 2020. “We should work together to start negotiations on a free trade agreement, as we talk about an investment agreement,” said Wang Hongjian, chargé d’affaires of the Chinese Mission to the EU. “We hope Europe will maintain a forward-looking and independent policy towards China and respect China’s territoriality and sovereignty.”
Though much work remains to be done before an EU-China CAI can be concluded, important steps are being taken. The two sides announced a landmark agreement on geographical indications on 6 November. Expected to enter into force before the end of 2020, the agreement will protect 100 European and 100 Chinese geographical indications, including Cava, Feta and Pixian bean paste.
Welcoming this agreement, Gunnar Wiegand, Managing Director for Asia-Pacific at the European External Action Service (EEAS), said that further progress would depend on the opening of Chinese markets to European businesses. “This is key to open up new areas in China for European investors. This is difficult but doable. We need to find the right balance of interests.” He pointed out that China had announced an aim to be a world leader in 10 key technologies by 2025. “Thank you for the challenge. We will compete. We are systemic rivals – not systematic or strategic. Reciprocity is a key requirement to make sure our relations continue on an upward course.”
The breadth of the relationship and the vast stakes – economic, political and environmental – mean that the relationship is never going to be simple. But signs are that it will remain constructive. “Europe and China have a complex, multifaceted relationship,” said Shada Islam, Director of Europe and Geopolitics at Friends of Europe. “We agree and we disagree. In difficult times it is tempting to withdraw and retreat, as some nations are trying to do. But Europe and China have decided that is not the right approach for their citizens or for the common public good.”
As Europe and China seek to redefine their relationship in the midst of an uncertain and evolving geopolitical environment, participants and high-level speakers at Friends of Europe’s 9th Europe-China Forum will debate areas of convergence and divergence between the two:
- Europe and China are becoming increasingly linked through trade, economic and political interactions – how does the goal of increased connectivity align with the emergence of a Eurasian region?
- Will the change of European leadership affect the EU-China relationship?
- Europe and China have a shared interest in taking steps to reform global governance – but how can they work together to do so?
The Forum will be preceded on 18 November by the invitation-only Policy & Practice Roundtable.
The conference has reached its full capacity and we are not in a position to accept any additional registrations. We’ll be live-tweeting on @friendsofeurope #EUChina and sharing the summary of the debate shortly after. Thank you and stay tuned!
- Friends of Europe discussion paper “Connectivity needs a strong rules-based multilateral framework – for everyone’s sake”
- Friends of Europe event report “Can cooperation trump competition?”
- “Trade first: joint efforts for an open world economy” by Chi Fulin
Photo credit: European Council President/Flickr
Our events include photos, audio and video recording that we might use for promotional purposes. By registering, you give your permission to use your image. Should you have any questions, please contact us.
Europe and Asia are increasingly linked through trade, economic and political interactions. The Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) reflects this enhanced interaction between the two regions as do China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Europe’s own cross-border connectivity plans and similar blueprints for connecting nations and regions drawn up by Japan, ASEAN, India and others. The latest EU-China Summit in April spotlighted ways to strengthen synergies between the BRI and the EU’s own Strategy for Connecting Europe and Asia. They have also set out the terms of reference for conducting a joint study “to identify the most sustainable railways-based transport corridors between Europe and China” and have agreed to enhance communication within their joint Connectivity Platform.
- How can the EU and China create synergies between their connectivity strategies while ensuring that projects adhere to international standards and principles of transparency, sustainability and open procurement?
- What will be the impact of these connectivity strategies on Central Asia and the 17+1 Initiative states?
- How does the goal of increased connectivity align with the emergence of a Eurasian region?
Ambassador of the Mission of the People's Republic of China to the EU
Managing Director for Asia and Pacific at the European External Action Service (EEAS)
Maja Bakran Marcich
European Commission Deputy Director-General for Mobility and Transport
Chairman of the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA) and former ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the EU (2011-2014)
Chair of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with the People's Republic of China (2014-2019)
Special Advisor on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
Director of the Center for European Studies at Renmin University of China
Director of Europe and Geopolitics at Friends of Europe
Demographic changes are transforming the economic and social landscape in both Europe and China. While China is set to reach peak population within a decade – before beginning to shrink – population growth in Europe is already on the decline. Both China and Europe face the challenge of adapting to ageing populations while also dealing with the demands of millennials who are disrupting traditional approaches to work and life. Recent estimates show that around 400 million millennials are living in China – more than the entire population of the United States – and 102 million in the EU. Having come of age during a time of great technological change and increased globalisation, millennials are well-educated, socially-conscious and connected to the world at large.
- How do the habits of this generation manifest themselves differently between Europe and China, and how are they changing the faces of the two regions?
- How are millennials’ spending habits changing the economies of China and the EU?
- As populations of both regions age and decline in number, how should China and the EU confront the challenge of shrinking workforces? At the same time, how can they cooperate to develop the ‘silver economy’?
Author of ‘Decoding China’
Vice-President of the China Institute for Reform and Development (CIRD)
Global Business Administration Exchange Student at NEOMA Business School
Senior Programme Manager at Friends of Europe
While they compete in a number of areas, Europe and China have a shared interest in dealing with global challenges and tackling demands for reforming global governance. As underlined at the EU-China summit in April, both sides firmly support the rules-based multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization (WTO) at its core, fight against unilateralism and protectionism, and commit to complying with WTO rules. They also reaffirmed their support for international peace and security through “intensified dialogue and cooperation” and peaceful dispute settlement in regional conflicts the world over.
- How can the EU and China work together to reform the WTO and re-energise the multilateral trading order?
- Following the recent EU-China agreement on Geographical Indications (GI), can progress also be expected in an EU-China investment treaty and future free trade agreement?
- How should East and West cooperate on emerging global security issues, including 5G, climate change, sustainable development, and peace and security?
European Commissioner-designate for Trade
Director-General of the Department for the Americas and Asia at the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Acting Director for Asia and Latin America in the European Commission Directorate-General for Trade
Miao Lu (Mabel)
Co-Founder and Secretary General of the Center for China & Globalization (CCG)
President of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies
Vice-Chair of the China Association of International Trade Expert Committee
Director of Europe and Geopolitics at Friends of Europe
With over 25 years of experience in diplomacy, Piritta Asunmaa has held numerous positions across the Finnish Foreign Ministry. Prior to taking up her current post as Director-General of the Department for the Americas and Asia, she served as Ambassador and Head of Mission to NATO, as well as as Finland’s representative to the EU’s Political and Security Committee. Over the course of her career, Asunmaa has gained experience through posts in both Washington and Paris, as well as across the Ministry’s many departments.
Maja Bakran Marcich is responsible for coordinating activities related to investment, as well as innovative and sustainable transport, and has been involved in discussions relating to the EU-China Connectivity Platform. Prior joining the European Commission, she served as Assistant Minister for Europe in the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. Having held numerous posts in the Ministry throughout her career, Bakran Marcich was also responsible for horizontal coordination of the Croatian accession negotiations, as well as for setting up and managing Croatia’s coordination system for European Affairs.
Peter Berz has over 25 years of experience working in the European Commission. In his current position in the Directorate-General for Trade, he is responsible for the European Union’s trade and investment relations with countries across Asia and Latin America. Prior to this, Berz held various other positions in the European Commission, including working with third countries on intellectual property rights and on trade in textiles, as well as on transatlantic relations – including during his tenure at the EU Delegation in Washington, D.C.
Diego Gilardoni is an internationally recognised expert and executive advisor on global business and communication. An expert on China, where he has worked as a consultant for European companies, he is the author of ‘Decoding China: cross-cultural strategies for successful business with the Chinese’, a book based on his expertise helping companies navigate the unchartered waters of globalisation by bridging the gaps between different management and business cultures. Gilardoni is a member of the international advisory board of Tsinghua University’s National Image Research Center, the leading think tank providing advice to Chinese institutions and corporations on public and corporate diplomacy strategies. He was recently Visiting Professor in Global Business and Corporate Diplomacy at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.
Having begun his diplomatic career in 1978, Wu Hailong has served in numerous positions, including as Ambassador in both Vienna and Geneva, during which appointments he served as China’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Offices and other international organizations present. He also served as Ambassador and Head of Mission to the European Union. Since leaving the Foreign Ministry, Wu has gone on to serve as President of the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs and now leads the CPDA.
Currently serving as European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan was responsible for signing the recent landmark agreement on Geographical Indications (GI) between China and the EU. During his former tenure as Ireland’s Minister for the Environment and Local Government, he implemented a broad-ranging agenda, including the largest reform of local government since the founding of the Irish state. Hogan has occupied various other senior posts at local, national and European level, including President of the Council of EU Environment Ministers and Chairman of the European People’s Party of Environment Ministers.
Shada works on issues related to the future of Europe, minority and integration challenges as well as on Europe’s relations with emerging nations. She set up the Asia Programme for Friends of Europe in 2011 and also leads its work on development issues. She is the former Europe correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and continues to write for leading international publications.
A member of the European Parliament for twenty years, Jo Leinen previously served as President of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, Chair of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and took part in the Convention for the Elaboration of a Charter of Fundamental Rights for the EU. In his latest role he was responsible for relations with China. His work also covered relations between the EU and UN, as well as with the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP). Prior to joining the European Parliament, Leinen was Minister for the Environment in the State Government of Saarland, Germany.
Under Miao Lu’s leadership, the Center for China and Globalization has grown over the last eleven years from a small research centre into China’s largest independent think tank, with research and policy advisory capacities over the areas of global governance, international migration, and global trade and investment relations. She has authored numerous publications in Chinese and English, and has been a visiting fellow at New York University and Harvard University. She is also a member of Hupan University, an exclusive programme founded by Alibaba’s Jack Ma which admits outstanding social and business entrepreneurs under the age of 35. In 2016, Miao received the “International Young Leader” award from King of the Belgians H.M. Philippe Leopold Louis Marie.
Zhang Ming has had a long and distinguished career in the diplomatic service, specialising in West Asian and North African affairs. Starting his career by working in Chinese embassies in Yemen, Oman and Israel, he later became Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Kenya, Permanent Representative to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Permanent Representative to UN-Habitat. Prior to his appointment to Ambassador of the Chinese Mission to the EU, Zhang served as Vice-Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Amanda Rohde manages the work of Friends of Europe’s Migration & Integration and Asia programmes. In addition to coordinating in-house publications and debates, she regularly speaks at conferences and authors articles on key developments in her areas of expertise. Most recently, she co-authored a discussion paper which highlighted recommendations for multilateralising international connectivity efforts. Prior to joining Friends of Europe in 2016, Rohde worked in the Research Unit of International Crisis Group in Brussels and before that as a teacher in South Korea.
Based in Beijing, Yang Rui has previously worked as the Director and Executive President of CIRD’s Beijing office. With a Master’s degree in public administration, her current research focuses on the history of China’s reform and opening up. Yang is also a research fellow at the China Enterprise Reform and Development Society.
Wu Shicun is an expert on the history and geography of the South China Sea, maritime delimitation, maritime economy, international relations and regional security strategies. He holds leadership roles in several research institutions, including as Chairman of the China-Southeast Asia Research Center on the South China Sea’s Board of Directors, Vice President of the China Institute for Free Trade Ports Studies and Deputy Director of Nanjing University’s Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies. Wu’s work is widely published and his expertise is frequently sought for media interviews on the South China Sea, regional security issues, the Belt & Road Initiative and the development of Hainan Province.
Astrid Skala-Kuhmann is an expert in emerging markets and sustainability issues with a focus on China, having served for six years as GIZ’s chief resident representative and country director there. She later served as GIZ’s Director-General of Global Partnerships – Emerging Economies. In her current capacity, she advises on matters related to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Skala-Kuhmann is also co-dean for the “Zukunftsbrücke” (Sino-German Young Professional Campus) and a supervisory board member of Lenzing AG and Semperit AG, Austria, both stock-listed with global scopes.
With more than twenty years’ experience in the EU’s external relations and trade policy, Gunnar Wiegand has previously served as Spokesman for External Relations to Commissioner Chris Patten; Head of Unit for Relations with the United States and Canada at the European Commission’s External Relations Directorate-General; and Deputy Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia at the EEAS, during which time he was the EU’s Chief Negotiator for the Association Agreements with Moldova, Georgia and Armenia, as well as the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Kazakhstan. Wiegand also acted as the EU’s Chief Negotiator for the new EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement.
Formerly working as a diplomat at the Chinese Mission to the European Union, Wang Yiwei’s main research interests include Belt & Road studies, European integration, public diplomacy, Chinese foreign policy and EU-China relations. His long experience in academia has led him to teach at universities across China, South Korea and the United States. Wang’s latest publications include China connects the world: what behind the Belt & Road Initiative, and he is frequently interviewed by Chinese and Western media outlets.
With an extensive background in international trade studies, Li Yong is frequently consulted by government departments for analysis on major international trade issues and policy recommendations. He is a standing council member of numerous committees and societies, focusing on issues like the World Trade Organization (WTO) and American and European economic and strategic studies. Li is also China Global Television Network’s (CGTN) current affairs and economics commentator, and he is frequently interviewed by both Chinese and Western media on China-US relations, as well as international economic and trade issues.
As a student of business administration and economics, Frank Zhao focuses his studies on logistics management. Over the course of his academic career, he aims to bridge the gap between Europe and China in the trade sector. To complement his studies in logistics, Zhao worked as an assistant at Mujjo BV – a Dutch producer of leather tech accessories – where he designed a new warehouse layout to optimise available space. During this time, he also focused on business communication between Western customers and Chinese manufacturers, addressing the different approaches to commerce in international trade.
- Frankly Speaking
- By Shada Islam
- Area of Expertise
- Asia, Africa & Emerging Economies
- Europe's World
- By Shada Islam & Amanda Rohde
- Europe's World
- By Nathalie Smuha