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Diplomat says trust needed in China, EU ties

By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-11 07:11
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Envoy welcomes officials' consensus that decoupling is not feasible for bloc

China's top diplomat to the European Union called on both sides to make efforts to rebuild trust that has been seriously eroded in the last few years.

Fu Cong, head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, said that he is glad to hear EU leaders saying that decoupling is neither feasible nor desirable, clearly referring to the recent speeches on China by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

"That has become a consensus view among EU officials and politicians and I think that is a good thing," Fu told a seminar in Brussels on Tuesday hosted by the China Chamber of Commerce to the EU, and Peking University.

Von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron visited China in early April, days after a trip to Beijing by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

Fu said that China understands the EU's desire for supply chain resilience as well as the EU's concerns about economic security, but he cautioned that if the idea of economic security is overstretched, it will become an impediment to cooperation.

The diplomat emphasized that trust is fundamental when it comes to economic security, resilience and de-risking.

"If you don't have trust, there are many things that need to de-risk. But if you have trust, then your tolerance for mutual interdependence will be much higher," said Fu, who has been busy meeting EU officials since he took over the job five months ago.

"That is actually what we need to do between China and the EU. And that is very important, and that requires efforts from both sides," he said.

Fu pointed out that it was unfortunate that trust between China and the EU that had existed at a very high level just a couple of years ago has been severely eroded due to complex reasons.

China has long rejected the EU's redefining of bilateral relations in March 2019 as a "cooperation partner, economic competitor and a systemic rival".

"We see EU as a partner, not as a rival," he said, adding that China is very committed to the relationship.

Fu described the EU as an important power center in the world.

"How we handle our relationship today will, to a very large extent, determine how the world will look like tomorrow," he said.

Maria Joao Rodrigues, president of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies and a former Portuguese government minister, said the EU does not want to decouple from China, but work with China on improving the global supply chains and governance.

Sustainable development

"We want to have cooperation with China to improve global governance and deal with global challenges," she said, citing issues such as climate change, debt management in developing nations and sustainable development.

Rodrigues, who just returned from a visit to China, added that the EU and China can work together in their ambitions for green transition and digital transition.

Wang Yuesheng, director of the Peking University-Bank of China Center for EU Economic and Strategic Research, agreed, saying that China and EU's economies are highly complementary and have great potential for cooperation.

He said that China should continue to push for the EU's ratification of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, which will pave the way for stable bilateral investment and trade ties.

He believes that under the high-level opening-up strategy, China could proactively and unilaterally take measures to open up certain sectors to improve the business climate.

"I believe we could select some key areas, such as digital economy, new energy vehicles, solar and green economy," he said.

According to Eurostat, China-EU trade reached 856 billion euros ($938 billion) in 2022, accounting for 15.3 percent of the EU's total trade.

Speaking on behalf of former WTO director-general Pascal Lamy, Sacha Courtial, Lamy's personal assistant, said that China and the EU should step up cooperation on climate change, such as in sharing experiences in their emission trading systems, sharing technology such as on climate adaptation, carbon capture and storage, on financing and on fighting ocean degradation and deforestation.

"This event highlights that China-EU cooperation is highly appreciated," he said.

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