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Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Ming at the CEPS Webinar "EU-China Relations Post COVID-19 Challenges and Opportunities"
2020/06/19

On June 18, 2020, the Chinese Mission to the EU and the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) jointly organized the 22nd China-EU Summit Briefing and the China-EU Relations Seminar in the Post-epidemic Era. Ambassador Zhang Ming, Head of Chinese Mission to the EU, attended the seminar and delivered a keynote Remarks. The full text is as follows:

Mr. Daniel Gros,

Mr. Huang Ping,

Mr. Karel Lannoo

Mrs. Valentina PoP

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning. I am glad to join you in discussing China-EU relations in the context of COVID-19. No doubt, the outbreak is bringing profound changes to global politics, economy and social life. It has also generated new challenges and opportunities to the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership.

The fight against the outbreak gives full expression to the value and potential of China-EU relations. We have reached out to each other in times of need, and are joining forces to promote global cooperation in expertise sharing, vaccine and medicine development, and so on. On the other hand, China-EU relations are facing more complexities in a changing political, economic and public opinion landscape due to the COVID-19.

The 22nd China-EU Summit next week will be the first annual summit since the inauguration of the new EU leadership, and the highest-level bilateral dialogue since the outbreak. The summit will be an important occasion for the two sides to discuss how to make our relations more productive and substantive by seizing opportunities and addressing challenges. There are three points worth mentioning here in the run-up to the summit.

First, strategic trust. We expect the summit to give a further boost to our strategic trust and mutually beneficial cooperation on the basis of mutual respect.

There have been some noises about "the battle of narratives". Yet the nature of China-EU relations, namely mutual benefit, remains unchanged. We are of the view that there is no fundamental conflict of interests between China and the EU. Our interaction should be a positive cycle that enables mutual success, not a knock-out match which allows only one winner. This is a most important thing we have learned from the past 45 years of diplomatic ties, and it is what we must keep in mind if we are to keep our relations on the right track.

China and the EU do have different political systems and ideologies. Yet we should not see the other as a systemic rival, still less to view cooperation through a geopolitical lens, or go so far as to question and misjudge the other's strategic intention. Our mutual help in the fight against the virus reflects our respect for lives and support for partners. China and the EU have carried out effective coordination in WHO and other multilateral frameworks, which shows that we have many commonalities in terms of thinking, interests and responsibilities. We could work together in even more areas.

Second, openness and cooperation. We expect the summit to reaffirm the commitment to openness and cooperation and lend fresh impetus to the investment agreement negotiation.

The pandemic increases the rhetoric of "decoupling". Yet the fact that our economies are interdependent would not change. Together, China and the EU account for one third of global GDP and have a huge stake in each other. The world is looking to us to steer the course of post-corona recovery in a spirit of openness and cooperation.

China stands ready to enhance macro-policy coordination with the EU to build greater synergies between our respective policy measures. By opening up fast-track services for personnel interflows and green corridors for flows of goods, we could facilitate resumption of work and keep industrial and supply chains stable. We need to strengthen cooperation in emerging areas such as green development and digital economy, to accelerate the shift of growth model and enhance the quality of development. China remains firmly committed to opening-up and will roll out more measures to expand opening up of its own accord. We hope the EU will keep to the right direction by fostering a fair, impartial and non-discriminatory environment for China-EU cooperation.

Since last year's summit, China and the EU have signed the civil aviation agreements and completed the negotiation of the GI agreement. We are pushing forward the negotiation of the investment agreement, and have made good progress in terms of the negative list and text. Due to the pandemic, the Leipzig summit has to be rescheduled. Yet on China's part, the political commitment to concluding a high-level and balanced investment agreement on time will not change. Of course, it takes two to tango. Both sides need to be pragmatic and realistic and adopt a give-and-take approach. Only in this way can we get over the thorny issues and reach agreement.

Third, multilateralism. We expect the summit to send a strong signal of China and the EU jointly upholding multilateralism and rejecting unilateralism, translating commitment into more actions, and contributing to global cooperation and the betterment of global governance.

Globally, the pandemic is still taking a heavy toll. The most pressing thing at the moment is to strengthen global response and improve public health governance on the basis of multilateralism. No one is safe until everyone is safe. China and the EU need to jointly support WHO in playing the leading role, step up information and experience sharing, speed up vaccine and medicine development, increase the accessibility and affordability of vaccines, and contain the spread of the virus as quickly as possible. We need to jointly step up support to regions with vulnerable public health systems, notably to explore tripartite cooperation with Africa to help it bolster the defense line. In the post-corona era, we need to improve the public health governance system, and establish long-term solutions to public health emergencies.

Multilateralism is the common language of China and the EU, and is exactly where the strategic and global significance of China-EU relations could be born out. As two major economies, China and the EU commit to strengthen global economic governance, safeguard the multilateral trading system with WTO at the core, and put forward more initiatives to cut tariffs, remove barriers and promote investment. Climate change and biodiversity protection could also be promising areas of China-EU cooperation on global governance.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The annual summit allows us to build on the past achievement and make new progress. China hopes to work with the EU to deliver a successful summit and bring our relations to a higher level.

Thank you.

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