Explore untapped potential in EU-China ties
This year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the European Union and China, established onMay 6,1975. It is an important milestone in an ever more important relationship between our union of 28 European states and China.
We have come a very long way since 1975. At that time the EU was made up of just nine member states. China was only beginning to open up and had yet to undergo its economic miracle. Trade between our two sides was miniscule; now the EU is China’s largest market and China is the EU’s second-largest trade partner. This relationship has made us truly interdependent, in the sense that the success of one party is predicated on the success of the other.
We cooperate in more areas than ever before, including foreign policy, security and defense, and cyber security. We both have obvious shared interests in the peaceful resolution of global conflicts, climate change mitigation, sustainable development, food and energy security, nuclear nonproliferation and social justice. While we have our differences, notably on human rights, our partnership has become mature enough to allow frank discussion on these issues.
Most satisfying of all is that contacts between the EU and China in areas like education, tourism and scientific and cultural exchange are booming. Today 250,000 Chinese students have chosen to follow courses at European universities, while the number of Europeans studying in China amounts to 40,000, with a further increase expected in the coming years. At the same time European countries count among the top destinations for Chinese tourists.
But there is still much untapped potential in our relations and this is why in November 2013 we adopted the EUChina 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation, the framework for our relations until the end of the decade. It identifies four main areas to bring our partnership to the next level: peace, prosperity, sustainable development and people-to-people exchanges.
With preparations already underway for the next EU-China Summit, it is now time to turn words into actions. One such action would be the acceleration of negotiations on a comprehensive, ambitious bilateral investment agreement, as well as the deepening of our cooperation in theWTO and other plurilateral negotiations. This would further open up access to each other’s markets, while creating more balanced world trade.
EU technology, know-how, services and investment can positively contribute to China’s efforts to achieve innovative, balanced, sustainable and socially-inclusive growth—and to become a successful high-income economy. There is huge opportunity for sharing the EU’s experience through the EU-China Sustainable Urbanisation Partnership and for further developing connectivity between Europe and Asia, which will bring benefit to both sides.
Another area where the EU and China must work together more is in the environment and climate change. A successful outcome to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year would send a strong signal to the entire world. This will be an important step on the path to a cleaner, greener, low-carbon future.
Last December, President of the European Council Donald Tusk in his first conversation with President Xi Jinping emphasised the importance of developing a strong strategic relationship with China, saying that the 40th anniversary of EU-China relations would be a good moment for the next EU-China Summit to develop further our trade, economic, investment and political relations.
We echo this sentiment and with one voice express our hope that this year will be a memorable one for EU-China relations. The article is co-authored by the Ambassadors to China of the European Union and the 28 EU Member States of Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.