Covid-19 & EU-China Relations
– a Strategic Conversation

By Lilia Heitz
For those that haven’t followed us live, watch 📺 the replay

On the backdrop of the COVID-19 outbreak 😷, the strategic relationship between the 🇪🇺 EU and 🇨🇳 China is witnessing moments of complex tension, yet with considerable potential for cooperation. In the age of unprecedented economic interdependence and asymmetric multipolar competition these two important actors of the international system will have to find their way forward. The challenges are many, including a harsh economic outlook, societal and public health recovery, as well as the security dilemma which ought to be addressed. What matters most is mutual trust and political will.

Will we emerge as partners, competitors or systemic rivals?

The discussion brought together a panel with  Ulrich Weigl, Head of Trade with the EU Delegarion to China; Joerg Wuttke, President EU Chamber of Commerce in China, Vice-President & Chief Representative of the BASF Group in China; Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou MEP, Vice-Chair INTA; Christoph Hansen MEP, EPP Group Coordinator INTA and Philip Torbøl, Partner with K&L Gates, Antitrust, Competition & Trade Regulation. The event was hosted by Iuliu Winker MEP, Vice-Chair INTA, Standing Rapporteur for EU-China Relations and 1st Vice President of SME Europe and moderated by Tudor Petru Fabian, Coordinator SME Europe’s Working Group on Trade.

In his remarks Iuliu Winkler MEP brought up a question wether 2020 could still be the year of China in the EU. On the backdrop of the EU-US trade tensions, Europe’s relations with China were driven by several mutual committments, e.g. concluding negotiations on CAI by 2020. Regardless the intense economic challenges brought by Covid-19 globally Mr. Winkler remains positive about the EU-China agenda. Furthermore, he believes there is a chance for the transatlantic relations renaissance. Mr. Winkler warns against making binary choices stressing on the necessity for the EU to continue building global relations based on its best interest and fundamental values. He concluded by sharing his thoughts on the post-covid economic recovery: ✔️reduce vulnerabilities and dependancies that were clearly exposed during the crisis; ✔️ better define EU strategic sectors and diversify supply chains; ✔️ build up the new generation of trade defence instruments to enforce the level playing field; ✔️ EU to remain committed to the WTO and form new alliances to modernise it.

Ulrich Weigl marked the compexity of EU-China relations prior of the Covid-19 crisis. Despite forced cancellation of the 2020 EU-China Summit and a number of high-level exchanges, both actors remain in touch on all levels.

💬 The conclusions have been the following:
✔️#EU needs to strike a strategic balance between its core interests with 🇺🇸&🇨🇳 ✔️🤝no binary choice, instead, robust engagement based on 🇪🇺values & interests
✔️Despite current complexities, the dialogue🗣 continues, with ambition to advance #investment negotiations & World Trade Organization coop
✔️🇨🇳 has 🔑role for 🌏 economic growth & 🇪🇺jobs/innovation📈: 🔁decoupling is thus not realistic!
✔️ EU institutions remain committed & ambitious on tough subjects #SOEs#subsidies, level playing field, #IPR#environment#humanrights
✔️🇪🇺🤝🇨🇳 remain concomitantly partners, competitors & rivals in a complex international system