Xi’s visit to boost China-EU ties
President Xi Jinping’s visit to European Union institutions in Brussels onMarch 31 will be historic. It will be the first visit by a Chinese head of state to the EU. It will be an occasion where the newleadership of China will lay out its vision for relations with Europe.
We in the EU are happy that President Xi will use the opportunity to visit four member states of the EU: the Netherlands, France, Germany and Belgium. His visit will give the world a strong signal of the importance China attaches to its relations with the EU— and the world will see in the way President Xi is welcomed that we attach equal importance to the relationship.
Since the establishment of the EU-China strategic partnership in 2003, our relationship has become increasingly closer and stronger. Looking ahead, and as the European Council PresidentHerman Van Rompuy said at the 16th EUChina Summit in Beijing in November, the next 10 years of the EU-China strategic partnership will require even more interaction and support for each other’s development.
We have moved from being a bilateral, trade-focused relationship, to one where we strive to tackle together the most important global challenges. Trade remains a defining component of our relationship. China is the EU’s second-biggest trading partner— while theEUis China’s biggest trade partner. Our trade relations have been the source of mutual benefit. We have become fundamentally interdependent and mature partners with the ability to solve friction through negotiation.
We now have a growing mutual interest in continued global growth and security. One of the main tasks we now face is to further develop our cooperation on security, defense and strategic relations. We are already cooperating in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, and we have seen how cooperation on issues like Iran and South Sudan contributes to resolving conflicts around the world. We need to broaden this cooperation to other global hot spots: Syria, Central Africa and Ukraine.
At the 16th EU-China Summit, we not only looked back on 10 successful years, but also looked ahead by agreeing on the EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation, which defines our cooperation over the coming decade. Agenda 2020 shows that the EU and China agree that a safe and prosperous world needs to be based on green, sustainable growth and innovation.
In Brussels, where President Xi will meet President Van Rompuy, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Martin Schulz, we expect our leaders to further cement the ties between the EU and China. Talks will center on how to move our joint Agenda 2020 forward. We will expect updates on developments in China after the Third Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee and the just concluded annual session of the National People’s Congress, and a discussion on how the EU can contribute to the handling of the challenges China faces — how to ensure a more balanced and inclusive growth, smooth the urbanization process and mitigate the environmental problems.
We will instil confidence in the post-crisis economic situation in Europe, and emphasize that stronger trade and investment ties with the EU are fundamental to our continued development. We expect the bilateral investment agreement, which will provide strong protection for investors and long-term market access, will figure prominently in the talks.
We also expect to underline how we can solve trade disputes through negotiation— signalling that we are conscious that our future is deeply interconnected, and that the stronger each partner is, the more it will benefit the other. International hot spots and conflicts will also be discussed, as well as issues on which we do not necessarily share the same views.
President Xi’s visit to Brussels will be a boost for EU-China relations. We look forward to welcoming him. The author is acting head of the Delegation of the European Union to China.