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EU-China Relations -  where now?

EU-China Relations - where now?

21 September 2012

Speaking at an EU-Asia Centre briefing on 21 September, Ambassador Markus Ederer, Head of EU Delegation in China, said that the 15th EU-China Summit on 20 September was overall a good summit and was positive about the prospects for the future. 

The substance of the EU-China relationshipwas driven by globalization  and the resulting deepening interdependence between both actors. The global economic and financial crisis was an obvious example. Each partner had a major interest in and influence on the stable development path of the other.  More and more of China's newly educated urban elites were demanding better living standards wih due attention to environment and social factors. The Chinese preferred the European model of urban life to that of the US. For Europe, this should offer business good opportunities using EU  experience in urbanisation and sustainable development. Water was another  huge challenge for China (20% of the world’s population but only  9% of the world fresh water). Here again Europe had a role to play.

Turning to the summit, Ederer said the Wen Jiabao had underlined Chinese support for the eurozone via the IMF, EFSF and ESM. The summit had reviwed progress over the past decade and outlined priorities for the future. There were several areas of common concern from energy and cyber security to climate change and investment. The summit was marked by a personal touch as Premier Wen's birthday was celebrated at dinner.  He made an emotional speech declaring his love of Europe, mentioning some greats from history including Charles de Gaulle, Immanual Kant, Adam Smith and George Bernard Shaw.

There a few clouds over the summit: the lack ofprogress on MES and the arms embargo mentioned by Wen and the failure to agree the parameters for a press conference. This was regrettable, said Ederer.

On global issues, there was an intense echange on Syria. Although both sides had a similar assessment they differed on how to react. Premier Wen also briefed the EU side on the current disputes in the East China Sea. 

In the discussion Ederer said that neither ETS nor solar panels were raised at the summit. On a potential FTA, he said there was no objection in principle but it would be a long road. He hoped both sides would agree the mandate to start negotiations on an investment treaty by the end of the year. IP was a constant struggle. On the upcoming leaership changes there were many uncertainties. But Wen had stressed continuity of policy at the summit. Corruption was a big problem but recognised by the leadership. The views of the EP were always taken into account on the EU side but some MEPs did not grasp how complex was the situation in China. Yes, there were problems of human rights but at the same time the Chinese were freer than at any time in their history. Finally Ederer agreed there could and should be more transparency surrounding the summits.