BRUSSELS — This year’s China-EU summit is a “strong symbol” of the world that the EU and China both believe in and the two are now working closer together on issues that matter for not only themselves but also the rest of the world, a top European Commission leader said.
“I have always been a strong believer in the potential of the EU-China partnership and what it can achieve for both sides, as well as the rest of the world,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Xinhua in an exclusive interview ahead of the 19th bilateral summit between the EU and China.
Junker recalled his first visit to China as prime minister of Luxembourg in 1996. “Over the years I have been back many times and have seen it open up, grow and transform into the thriving country it is today,” he said.
Economically, the China-EU partnership is more important than ever. The EU is China’s biggest trading partner and China is the EU’s second largest. Trade in goods between the two sides is worth over 1.5 billion euros ($1.68 billion) every day, which supports millions of jobs and helps the economies grow, he stressed.
“But perhaps even more striking is the emerging global leadership role that China and the EU have taken on together in the last few years,” the president said.
Both sides are committed to an open world governed by a rule-based international system, free and fair trade and to finding global solutions to issues of global concerns, according to Juncker.
Taking the fight against climate change as an example, Juncker said the EU and China are now working hand-in-hand to make sure that the Paris Climate Agreement is fully implemented.
“We have supported China all the way as it prepares to launch the world’s biggest emissions trading scheme. And our clean energy partnership will ensure that the energy transition is here to stay,” he noted.
That sort of cooperation is being replicated across the board, ranging from the fight against international terrorism, sustainable development to global economic growth, the president added.
Investment and trade cooperation
Juncker lauded the achievement of EU-China investment cooperation over the last two decades.
“It was only in 2001 that China joined the World Trade Organization and back then its economy was mostly closed to Europe. Fast forward to today and the EU accounts for around 16 percent of total Foreign Direct Investment in China,” he said, adding that the two can do much more.
Juncker hopes that China’s economy becomes more accessible to the European investors. He mentioned that Chinese investment in the EU was four times the amount of European companies’ investment in China.
“China still only accounts for less than 5 percent of our direct investment abroad,” he said.
He said the EU would like a more open and reciprocal investment environment and hopes to make progress on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment currently under negotiation.
Talking about trade issues, Juncker expressed hopes that the related issues can be tackled properly by upholding fairness.
Belt and Road Initiative
He reckoned that both China and the EU would benefit from China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and believed in China’s commitment to adhering to market rules.
He stressed that transparent, open, rule-based public tenders and reciprocal market access must be the basis for cooperation. “That would provide plenty of opportunities for both sides and deliver added value for all the countries along the routes,” Juncker said.
Expectation for summit
As for the expectation for this year’s summit, the president said the summit is a “strong symbol” of the world that both the EU and China believe in.
The topics of the summit range from investment, cooperation, trade, security, digital economy to green and sustainable growth, which will show “the depth and breadth of the our partnership.”
He noted that as firm friends and strong partners, China and the EU will always be honest and constructive. “That is the strength of our partnership.”
“We are now working closer together on all of those issues that matter not only for us, but (also) for the rest of the world,” Juncker said.
Looking ahead, he underlined that both the EU and China are committed to strengthening a rule-based global system and international cooperation.
“The upcoming G20 Summit in Hamburg will be the next opportunity to do that. I hope we can send a strong message that China and the EU are on the same page,” Juncker said.