The EU has doubled down on its calls for China to further open its markets to foreign companies. At Friends of Europe’s 20 March EU-China Policy & Practice Roundtable “Can cooperation trump competition?” a senior EU official appealed to China to wrap up long-running talks on a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment by 2020 “at the latest” and spoke of growing “impatience” in Brussels over a stalled aviation safety deal.
"It is this kind of lack of progress, stalling, which creates a certain degree of impatience and frustration on the European side,” said Gunnar Wiegand, Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific at the European External Action Service (EEAS). “Take these signals seriously: they are real,” he added. “As much as we very firmly believe in good relations and close partnership, we believe in fair partnership and mutual opening because our internal market is wide open for Chinese operators.”
However, China’s ambassador to the EU said “full reciprocity” between the Chinese and EU economies was still “far-fetched” given that China still trails Europe in terms of per capita GDP, industrialisation and poverty levels. “It’s not helpful to play up differences, point fingers at each other and turn up pressure by issuing ultimatums,” said Zhang Ming, Ambassador of the Mission of the People's Republic of China to the EU. "It does not make sense to force blanket reciprocity,” he added.
Zhang also disagreed with the EU’s labelling of China as a “systemic rival” (in a recent Commission communication) and said competition between the two economies is “not a bad thing”. And he appealed for the EU to ignore recent “groundless accusations” of espionage against Chinese technology giant Huawei.
The debate – which was followed by a roundtable discussion among participants – took place one day ahead of an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels, where EU-China relations were on the agenda, and just over two weeks before the 21st EU-China Summit, the last within the current European Commission mandate.
PHOTO CREDIT: European Council President/Flickr