EU-China partnership will help both economies to recover
Published: Aug 25, 2020 08:48 PM

Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT

Owing to fears that the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to a contracted global economic crisis, countries and regions have entered a phase to solidify cooperation after months of fighting the virus separately. 

Reaching consensus between China and European countries on the issue, it is crucial for the two sides to enhance cooperation through means such as setting up a more amicable investment environment to boost the confidence of the two giant markets, and to contend with the anti-globalization movement led by the US.

Starting from Tuesday, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi kicked off his official visits to some leading EU countries, including Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, France and Germany.

As the Chinese Foreign Minister's first overseas visit since the outbreak of the pandemic, it shows the importance attached by both sides to China-European relations, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in Beijing.

As the pandemic spread across the world, global trade has endured a hit, followed by a drop in investments.

Chinese firms' investment in Europe, which has been decreasing due to increased scrutiny by the EU, may face a grim prospect this year. After the EU recently rolled out its record-high 1.82 trillion euro ($2.1 trillion) economic rescue budget, the demand for overseas investments is expected to rise.

Though the pandemic had delayed a previous agenda, negotiations over the China-EU bilateral investment treaty (BIT) are back on track and expected to move forward. 

As a key framework offering the basis for law and regulation in bilateral investments, it has drawn much attention. Amid the critical phase following the launch of the EU's landmark stimulus plan, making a breakthrough in BIT negotiations will help boost the confidence of the markets.

Among a series of long-term development strategies by the EU to facilitate its economic recovery, investments are now in high demand, especially in the digital economy, as well as the necessity to upgrade its infrastructure which would create complementarities between China and the EU.

Meanwhile, challenges remain as the EU - a political and economic union including 27 member states - has a much more complex mechanism when it comes to policy making. Rounds of negotiation inevitably hinder the efficiency of the organization and can even leave space for external intervention. The US has been relentlessly lobbying and threatening a number of European countries to turn against China and Chinese firms, such as its crackdown on global 5G frontrunner Huawei Technologies and other Chinese technology enterprises. 

As China-US relations is frayed due to Trump administration's trade and technology war, EU officials have stressed its independence for the union, which is undoubtedly in accordance with its core interests in the long run.

Despite the US' decoupling from China strategy which will seriously shatter global system, China and the EU have maintained consensus to promote free trade and open economy, which benefit both economies. 

If cooperation between China and the EU can be further stabilized and strengthened, and both sides' confidence enhanced, it will reduce global uncertainty and put the world on a path of economic growth quickly. 

The author is director of EU Studies at the China Institute of International Studies.

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