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Convergence, Divergence and the Vital Space Between-Ninth Europe-China Forum Held in Brussels

On 18 and 19 November, 2019, the Chinese Mission to the EU held the ninth Europe-China Forum in Brussels, in collaboration with the EU think tank Friends of Europe, China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA), and China Institute for Reform and Development (CIRD). Themed “convergence, divergence and the vital space between”, the forum brought together about 200 Chinese and European representatives of political, business academic, and media communities to discuss a wide range of topics such as China-EU relations and cooperation, connectivity, and global governance.

Wu Hailong, CDPA President and former Chinese Ambassador to the EU, said that China and the EU present development opportunities to each other. The two sides are partners rather than systematic rivals. Their common interests are far greater than their differences. The EU need to look at China’s development in an objective light and jointly seek win-win results. China will press ahead with reform and opening-up and bring opportunities to more countries in the course of development. China and the EU can deepen cooperation in a wide range of fields such as trade and investment, connectivity, high and new technologies, green and low-carbon economy, and third-party markets, fully unlocking the potential for cooperation between two major markets and delivering greater benefits to the two peoples. As two major global actors, China and the EU shoulder the responsibility of maintaining global stability and development. The two sides should step up coordination and cooperation on regional and global hotspot issues such as climate change, sustainable development, WTO reform and the Iran nuclear issue, thus enhancing the strategic and global significance of China-EU relations.

Wang Hongjian, Charge d’Affaires of the Chinese Mission to the EU, noted in his speech that this forum could not have come at a better time since next year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the EU and will see important items on the political agenda. As comprehensive strategic partners, China and the EU do not have fundamental clashes of interest. Their relations are defined by cooperation. Convergences prevail over divergences. The two sides need to make the pie of cooperation bigger and more substantial and add new ingredients to it. In addition to an ambitious investment agreement, the two sides had better launch the FTA process at an early date. China and the EU need to take concrete actions to synergize the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Connectivity Strategy, such as launching a few pilot projects in key areas and stepping up dialogue on rules and standards. The two sides need to further enrich their cooperation on science and innovation, in an effort to show that it is not helpful to stifle the flow of knowledge or to create the technology divide. They also need to strengthen cooperation on green development and climate change. This will not only add new impetus and highlights to China-EU relations, but also give a strong pushback against unilateralism and protectionism and give a boost to multilateralism and the improvement of global governance.China is pushing reform and openness of its own accord and has achieved remarkable results. Its ranking by the ease of doing business has increased significantly for two years in a row. While urging China to broaden openness, the EU itself must keep to the basic principles of market economy and treat Chinese companies in a fair, equitable and non-discriminatory manner.

Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, and Commissioner-designate for Trade, said that both China and the EU benefit from cooperation. The China-EU agreement on geographical indications, whose conclusion was announced during his visit to China last week, marks the first major outcome of economic and trade cooperation between China and the EU in recent years. It will deliver benefits to businesses and the general public of both sides. Now China and the EU are working hard toward an ambitious bilateral investment agreement by 2020 to further deepen their economic and trade cooperation. The WTO is now facing tough challenges. The EU is ready to work with China to strengthen coordination and cooperation in seeking solutions, to improve the body’s efficiency through necessary reform, and safeguard the multilateral trading system with the WTO as its core.

Gunnar Wiegand, Managing Director for Asia and Pacific at the European External Action Service (EEAS), noted the rich dimensions of China-EU relations. The two sides have not only strengthened cooperation in bilateral areas such as trade and investment, but also reached broad consensus on international issues such as fighting climate change, upholding multilateralism, safeguarding world peace, and improving global governance. China and Europe differ in political and social systems and have different views on some issues, but Europe has chosen to enhance mutual trust and resolve differences through greater engagement rather than confrontation, isolation or containment against China. The EU engages with China in a way distinctly different from that of its partner on the other side of the Atlantic. It will not use policy instruments that undermine international multilateral mechanisms, the principles of free trade, or WTO rules. The EU wants to promote the strategic synergy between the Strategy for Connecting Europe and Asia and the Belt and Road Initiative on the basis of fair competition and sustainability.

The Europe-China Forum has been held for nine consecutive years since its inception in 2011. This year’s forum, held right before the new EU leadership officially assumes office, has played a positive role in deepening policy dialogue and exchanges and enhancing mutual understanding and trust. It is widely shared view among forum participants that, in face of a highly volatile international situation, better communication and coordination between China and the EU is of crucial importance and the need for cooperation has become the greatest common understanding between the two sides.

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