Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Innovative notions likely to blossom at China-EU talks

By Fu Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2015-06-24 08:22

Innovative notions likely to blossom at China-EU talks

President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the College of Europe in the Belgian city of Bruges. [Photo/Xinhua]

After emergency meetings on the Greek debt crisis and the influx of immigrants in Europe, the European Union is scheduled to hold a summit with China at the end of June. Premier Li Keqiang will attend the 17th China-EU Summit in Brussels and visit Belgium, pay an official visit to France, and visit the headquarters of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development from June 28 to July 2.

Despite the tight schedule and limited time, EU leaders are expected to work out "strategic and concrete" proposals for the annual Beijing-Brussels meeting, which couldn't be held last year because of the leadership reshuffle in the EU. In fact, being the first summit after the leadership changes in Beijing and Brussels, both sides are likely to inject new ideas and set the tone for the future, especially because they have taken care of their internal priorities and gradually rolled out their global agenda.

Beijing, for example, has been focusing mainly on the "Belt and Road Initiative" with the aim of linking its manufacturing competitiveness with the demands of the rest of world. Brussels, on its part, has vowed to create more jobs and boost economic growth by mobilizing 315 billion for investment, mainly from the private sector, in the next three years.

Thus, it can be said the two sides are seeking synergy between the "Belt and Road Initiative" and the EU's investment plan. It is still not known how Brussels expects to mobilize such a huge amount as investment and whether it will welcome investments from countries such as China. But since only a few billion euros have been raised as investment over the past several months, the EU cannot afford to ignore the possibility of inviting funds from China.

China's increasing appetite for outward investments and the EU's multibillion-euro need could easily bring the two sides together to sign an unprecedented investment deal. Such a goal, however, should not be the main focus of the upcoming China-EU summit, which is the highest level bilateral gathering after President Xi Jinping's historic visit to the EU headquarters in early 2014.

While both sides are busy making efforts to ensure the summit is a success, the significance of Xi's visit should be kept in mind. Xi's visit to the EU headquarters was particularly important because the two sides used the occasion to seek a strategic partnership of peace, growth, reform and civilization. The goal may be ambitious, but it defines the scope of the strategic partnership between China and the EU.

To achieve the goal, however, China and the EU have to make more efforts - even more than that seen in the frequent exchanges between China and the United States. There is need to form at least two, if not four, working groups to explore the full gamut of potential for growth and reform, both of which have been high on the internal agenda of Beijing and Brussels.

To synergize the "Belt and Road Initiative" and the EU investment plan, the two sides have to boost economic growth, deepen reform and realize regional integration. In doing so, Beijing and Brussels should try to go beyond their existing arrangements. For instance, the two suggested working groups on growth and reform should explore the possibility of establishing a "Sino-EU Investment Fund".

Brussels may not be open to such ideas, because, as an entity, it is still behind the EU member states when it comes to cooperating with China, especially on the trade and economics front. Another stumbling block for Brussels is its inclination to follow in the steps of Washington.

Therefore, China has to make all possible efforts to reassure the EU that closer and tighter relationship is in the interest of both sides, especially the Europeans.

The author is China Daily chief correspondent in Brussels.

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