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Ambassador Zhang Ming Exchanged Views with the INTA Committee of the European Parliament
2018/05/02

(23 April 2018, European Parliament)

Mr. Chair,

Dear MEPs,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to be here to have this face-to-face communication with you. First of all, I want to thank the INTA Committee for its efforts to promote the China-EU economic and trade relations.

Before I came here, I read the draft opinion that you prepared for the Committee on Foreign Affairs. I am very open to discussing the issues you mentioned in the opinion. But before we go into the details, please allow me to share some general ideas as a basis for further discussions.

First and foremost, I want to emphasize that the China-EU economic and trade relations are by nature mutually beneficial.

Facts and figures speak for themselves. In 1978 when China just started reform and opening-up, the China-EU trade in goods was only US$4 billion, while trade in services and investment were almost zero. Forty years on, our trade in goods is over US$600 billion, trade in services over US$100 billion, and stock of investment nearly US$200 billion. Our trade and investment combined have increased by nearly 250 folds in the past 40 years. Such a growth would be impossible if it were not mutually beneficial.

While China benefits from trade with the EU and the EU investment, the EU also gets huge benefits. The Eurostat data show that in 2017, the growth of exports to China accounted for 21% of the total growth of the EU exports. Exports to China pushed up the EU exports by 1.6%, much higher than the United States and other countries did.

I must admit that there are indeed some issues in our economic and trade relations; however, they only take up a very small part of our overall cooperation worth nearly US$1,000 billion. With open and smooth channels of communication, China and the EU could seek solutions through friendly consultation. We also believe, to solve problems, we must look ahead, not looking back. If one retreats back into the tower of protectionism, he would certainly miss the lovely spring day outside.

Looking ahead, it is not difficult to see that China’s greater openness will provide huge opportunities for China-EU economic and trade cooperation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said that opening-up was key to China’s economic and social development in the past 40 years, and by the same token, the high-quality development of China can only be achieved through greater openness. Shortly after the 19th Party Congress, China introduced concrete measures to deliver on its commitment. Earlier this month, President Xi announced further measures to significantly broaden market access, create a more attractive investment environment, strengthen IPR protection and expand import. As we gradually implement these measures, China will enter a new phase of opening-up.

Chinese people value credibility. When we say it, we mean it. We have just set clear timeframes for revising the negative list on foreign investment, easing restrictions on the establishment of foreign financial institutions, and lifting restrictions on foreign equity shares in such industries as automobiles. We are already taking actions. A former EU leader said to me, “Direction is more important than speed.” Another colleague does not agree, saying that direction and speed are equally important. I guess this colleague will feel reassured if he looks at the firm resolve and faster pace of China’s opening-up.

Investors, including those from the EU, have confidence in China’s business environment as demonstrated by their business decisions. In 2017, China received US$136.3 billion of foreign investment, a record high for China and ranking the second in the world. FDI from the EU in 2017, though slightly lower than the previous year partly due to a relatively high basis number at the end of 2016, went up greatly by 24% from 2015. A survey by the EU Chamber of Commerce in China suggests that more than two thirds of the EU companies in China have made profits, and that more than half of the companies are optimistic about their future prospects in China. This is a strong proof that China is an open country, and that European investors recognize that.

For the China-EU economic and trade relations, opportunities are far more than challenges. To fully unleash the potential, a stable global economic environment, in particular a rules-based multilateral trading system, is of crucial importance.

Given the rising trends of unilateralism and protectionism, as well as the international uncertainties, a stable China-EU relationship is of great value. China and the EU are both major members of the WTO, and make comprehensive strategic partners for each other. We need to stand up together with a clear-cut stance against unilateralism and protectionism, preserve the rules-based multilateral trading system, and sustain the sound momentum of the global economy. This is our joint responsibility, and we need to act together to make that happen.

Some European friends say that though the current system works, it is not fair enough. China is always ready to listen to the EU’s suggestions on how to make the system better. But one thing is certain: facing unilateralism and protectionism, compromise or policy of appeasement for the sake of short-term interests will weaken economic globalization, undermine the multilateral trading system, and hurt the fundamental interests of all members of the international community.

Dear MEPs,

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. The 20th China-EU Summit will be held in July. China hopes to work with the EU to bring our cooperation, in particular that in the area of economy and trade, to a new level. We hope that the INTA Committee will continue to play a positive and constructive role.

Mr. Chair, you are going to visit China next month with your colleagues. I wish you a good trip. I’m sure that the first-hand experience will help you understand China better. It is my sincere hope that more of your colleagues will have an opportunity to visit China and see what is happening in my country. With mutual understanding, mutual respect and mutual trust, we can make the pie bigger, and our citizens will both get a bigger slice.

Thank you. I look forward to a good discussion with you.

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