GT Voice: France should bring rational voice to EU trade policy on China
Published: Jul 30, 2023 10:05 PM Updated: Jul 30, 2023 09:58 PM
China EU Photo: VCG

China EU Photo: VCG

Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng on Saturday co-chaired the ninth China-France High Level Economic and Financial Dialogue in Beijing with French Minister of Economy, Finance and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty Bruno Le Maire.

Under the strategic guidance of the two heads of state, China-France economic and trade relations have shown great resilience and sound momentum of development. Given the potential positive impact that China-France cooperation may have on China-EU cooperation, it is hoped that France will bring a rational voice to the EU's economic and trade policy toward China at a time when the talk of "de-risking" trade with China is rampant in the EU.

There is no denying that how to "de-risk" from China has become a frequent topic among some European politicians since Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, introduced the "de-risking" rhetoric in a March speech, which is considered to be an alternative to the US policy of "decoupling."

While the "de-risking" rhetoric sounds milder compared with "decoupling" as the former is mainly concerned with security and still allows for normal exchanges and cooperation in areas that do not involve security issues, the real meaning of the term and its actual impact on the EU's economic and trade policy toward China remain blurred. Such vagueness and flexibility may be just what the EU wants, in order to obscure the pan-security operations in its economic policy toward China.

The reason why the "de-risking" rhetoric has become so popular may be because it seems to respond to Western "concerns" about dependence on Chinese supply chains and security issues. But these so-called concerns are largely exaggerated or distorted by malicious forces. This is also why it actually brings more trouble and friction into bilateral economic relations if the EU arbitrarily sees trade with China as a threat or risk.

The logic of antagonizing economic relations based on political hype is not conducive to the establishment of mutual trust needed for future cooperation. What's worrying is that since there is no consensus within the bloc as to what exactly constitutes economic security risks that need "de-risking," it is very likely that some politicians may simply label the entire China-EU trade relationship as needing "de-risking" by overstating the risks and abusing their political tools, which could lead to more daunting challenges to bilateral economic relations.

How could the EU take a fair, reasonable, realistic and rational attitude toward Chinese imports and companies' competition if it sees China as a source of risk? What we are concerned about now is that if the EU continues to insist on this approach of "de-risking" in resisting Chinese manufacturing, technology, as well as investment, as sources and producers of risk, it may eventually lead to the EU following the US strategy, which will undermine mutual trust and ultimately push China into complete opposition.

The crux of China-EU cooperation is to answer the question as to how the EU should view competition with China. It is true there is competition, but more importantly, there is more cooperation, which is especially needed under the current circumstances. If the EU unreasonably views imports of Chinese-made goods, technology and investment as risks, it would be impossible for both sides to deepen cooperation.

Needless to say, such an approach runs counter to what the EU's development needs now. In many areas such as automobiles, communication and green energy, EU-China cooperation is essential for both sides to accelerate development.

The EU is one of China's most important trading partners, and there is no fundamental political conflict of interest between China and the EU. Also, the two sides are highly complementary economically, sharing common concerns in addressing climate change, protecting biodiversity and maintaining effective multilateralism.

The fruitful achievements made by China and the EU in the past are sufficient to show that it is in the interests of both sides to maintain close communication and deepen practical cooperation, which will not increase risks to each other, but will inject more certainty into the volatile world economy and help reduce risks. And it is hoped that dialogues between China and EU countries, such as the China-France High Level Economic and Financial Dialogue, can address mutual concerns and build trust for greater cooperation.