Opinion / Fu Jing

EU should cash in on opportunities, not look at problems

By Fu Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2017-04-18 07:12

EU should cash in on opportunities, not look at problems

China-EU relations are expected to get a boost when Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, holds the annual political and strategic dialogue with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi on Wednesday. Brussels has said the meeting will pave the way for the bilateral summit, the date for which will be announced soon.

Both China and the EU know full well how fast the already complex situation in the world has been evolving in recent times. Yang and Mogherini are expected to share their views on global development, too. Mogherini, who will visit India and Russia soon, is waiting for Yang to update her about the details of the meeting between President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump.

The United States' European allies are worried about Trump's attitude and decisions. In a recent interview with The Financial Times, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that during a conversation on the telephone, Trump mistook him to be European Council President Donald Tusk. Given the EU's worries and the United Kingdom's departure from the 28-member bloc in two years, Beijing needs to reassure Brussels of its full support for strengthening bilateral trade and economic relations. The recent developments in Syria, too, should be high on their agenda.

Yang and Mogherini are likely to discuss other issues before they delve into bilateral topics. And because of the fast-changing global situation, Beijing and Brussels need to hold several rounds of dialogues before deciding how to take bilateral ties to a higher level. The EU also needs to do more homework before exploring the full potential of bilateral relations.

Three years ago, Xi visited the EU headquarters and both sides agreed to promote peace, growth, reform and partnership. This may be the right time for both sides to review the three-year harvests in the four areas.

Judging by Brussels' performance vis-a-vis Beijing last year, there is need to change its approach and strategy. Brussels seemed keen on "punishing Beijing" when it came to steel overcapacity. It tightened its approval procedure on Beijing's inward investment, and its leader even met with the Dalai Lama, who promotes separatism.

When Trump entered the White House in January, some in Brussels said China and the EU should do more to fill the vacuum created by the new US administration's unwillingness to promote globalization and free trade. They were worried about the change in cross-Atlantic relations. But things have started to change, and Brussels and Beijing both are willing to see reality. Beijing and Washington have decided on a 100-day plan to discuss how to boost bilateral relations. And Trump even announced last week that China is not a currency manipulator.

These developments mean Brussels may need more time to finalize its stance toward Beijing. It needs more discussions, and should wait until Beijing and Washington agree on their future relations, before reaching a decision. And three upcoming events-the Belt and Road Initiative Forum for International Cooperation in May, the China-EU bilateral summit and the G20 Summit in Hamburg in early July-will provide the right platforms for the three sides to decide their future ties.

Despite its difficulties in dealing with Brexit, the refugee crisis, terrorism and populism, the EU may be in better economic growth in the coming two to three years. China's Belt and Road Initiative (the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road) has been welcomed by the EU and offers an excellent opportunity to both sides to deepen cooperation and boost their economies.

While dealing with China, the EU should know it is far important to explore opportunities than to focus on challenges and problems. And that Washington has reportedly shown interest in the Belt and Road Initiative should remind Brussels of its importance when it holds talks with Beijing.

The author is deputy chief of China Daily European Bureau.

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