China-EU summit to restart cooperation, clear up issues in bilateral ties stemming from US, virus: analyst

By Leng Shumei and Ma Jingjing Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/21 21:01:10 Last Updated: 2020/6/21 22:01:10

The European Union flags in front of EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese and EU top leaders are set to kick off an annual summit on Monday, with the otherwise relatively steady bilateral relationship coming under serious pressure stemming from both internal disagreements on various issues, including the EU's stance on China's internal affairs in Hong Kong, as well as external complications posed by an ever destructive US and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Topping the agenda with the leaders set to meet via videolink - the first such talks since the outbreak of the deadly virus began -  are efforts to clear up those emerging problems in bilateral ties to restore mutual trust and draw up a solid plan to restart China-EU practical cooperation for a post pandemic recovery, Chinese analysts said on Sunday.

The 22nd China-EU Summit is scheduled to be held on Monday, marking the first official meeting between Chinese leaders and the new EU leaders. 

The annual China-EU Summit plays a guiding role in China-EU relations. During this summit, President Xi Jinping will meet with President Charles Michel of the European Council and President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission via video link, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a press conference on Friday. 

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will co-chair the virtual meeting with President Michel and President von der Leyen, according to Zhao. 

The summit is a signal that China and Europe are going to restart cooperation in a post-pandemic era, Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies, China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Cui said that there are two missions for the two sides during the summit: first, to reiterate mutual interest and restart bilateral cooperation in the industrial chain and supply chain in the wake of the pandemic; second, to pull bilateral ties to the level of practical cooperation, clear up existing problems in bilateral cooperation and stabilize mutual trust that was affected during the pandemic. 

This year marks the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and the EU. 

The 22nd China-EU Summit will be the first annual summit since the inauguration of the new EU leadership, and the highest-level bilateral dialogue since the outbreak began, Ambassador Zhang Ming, Head of Chinese Mission to the EU, addressed the 22nd China-EU Summit Briefing jointly held by the Chinese Mission to the EU and the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) on June 18.  

Cooperative foundation  

"As the EU is becoming an increasingly independent bloc with its own interests as a guide in its diplomacy, European leaders are generally pragmatic in dealing with ties with China," Li Yong, deputy chairman of the Expert Committee of the China Association of International Trade, told the Global Times on Sunday.

The goal to complete talks between China and the EU over a sweeping bilateral investment treaty (BIT) by the end of 2020 remains unchanged for the Chinese side after a 29th round of negotiations in late May. But some noise recently emerged on the EU side about tightening scrutiny regarding Chinese investment on the continent, particularly from Chinese state-owned firms.

In this regard, Li said that the EU side should not "politicize" economic and trade problems that could be solved under WTO framework via talks. "The signing of BIT benefits both sides, especially EU member countries, and help them protect and expand their interests in the Chinese market," he said, warning that politicization would harm and distort any normal economic relationships.

Observers noted that China is an important market for European enterprises in the post-pandemic era, thanks to the country's efforts in controlling COVID-19 earlier than other countries.

Apart from driving supply and demand in the global supply chain through a fast economic recovery, China is actively taking measures to help foreign investment-backed enterprises resume operations in the domestic market.

In around early June, two chartered planes carrying a total of 400 German managers, workers, and family members landed in Shanghai and North China's Tianjin to help them get back to their workplaces in China, reflecting the two sides' common willingness to reconnect and restore economic cooperation to normality.

By opening up fast-track services for personnel flows and green corridors for flows of goods, the two sides could facilitate resumption of work and keep industrial and supply chains stable. We need to strengthen cooperation in emerging areas such as green development and the digital economy, to accelerate the shift of the growth model and enhance the quality of development, Zhang said.

In the post-pandemic era, China and the EU need to jointly support the World Health Organization in playing the leading role, step up information and sharing of experience, speed up vaccine and medicine development, increase the accessibility and affordability of vaccines, and contain the spread of the virus as quickly as possible, Zhang noted.

Aerial photo taken on Sept. 6, 2019 shows a cargo ship of COSCO SHIPPING Lines transporting Italian products to participate in the 2019 China International Import Expo (CIIE) to Shanghai, where the CIIE will be held, berths at the Port of Piraeus, Greece. (Photo by Lefteris Partsalis/Xinhua)


Mutual trust

The pandemic has undeniably affected mutual trust between China and the EU given the hyping up of the pandemic and Hong Kong-related issues by the US against China, Cui said, noting that reiterating mutual trust is also a vital mission for the Monday summit.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo viciously attacked China at the virtual 2020 Copenhagen Democracy Summit on Friday, forcing and inducing European countries to choose between Beijing and Washington. "The choice isn't between the United States; it's between freedom and tyranny," he said, accusing the Communist Party of China of being a "rogue actor."

However, observers noted that EU leaders know that the EU will have more markets in China, as following the US suit to attack China will do them no good. They also seek for a more influential position as an important global player as China-US ties remain strained.

They also stressed that China and the EU rely deeply on each other economically; it is not impractical or cost-effective to change the cooperative tendency.  

According to a recent survey released by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China on June 10, only 11 percent of European companies have considered moving their investments from China to other markets in 2020, compared with 15 percent in 2019. Meanwhile, about 40 percent of the respondents said China's research and development environment is improving to be better than the world average.

China remains firmly committed to opening-up and will roll out more measures to expand opening-up on its own accord. We hope the EU will keep moving in the right direction by fostering a fair, impartial and non-discriminatory environment for China-EU cooperation, Ambassador Zhang said. 

Newspaper headline: Annual China-EU summit to restart cooperation post-pandemic


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