EU to use China as guinea pig to monitor bilateral summit deals

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, speaks with European Council President, Donald Tusk, on their way into the EU-China summit held in April in Brussels. [Council]

EU member states have decided to set up a new mechanism to monitor China’s progress in implementing agreed commitments, with the aim of extending such controls to other bilateral relations and European Council conclusions, according to documents seen by EURACTIV.

The EU’s 28 national governments have instructed their ambassadors in Brussels to “actively monitor” the implementation of China’s commitments to open up its economy and reform the World Trade Organisation, according to the minutes of an EU ambassadors’ meeting held last week.

This unprecedented process came amid growing frustration from Europeans, after Beijing fell short of delivering on past commitments or failed to conclude agreements that were nearing completion.

EU urges China to progress on demands to dispel 'frustration'

The EU will give Chinese leaders a comprehensive list of demands next month to address the growing “frustration” among Europeans, and to improve bilateral cooperation as it reaches a critical junction, various senior EU officials explained on Wednesday (20 March).

The permanent grouping of EU national ambassadors in Brussels – know as the Committee of Permanent Representatives, or  Coreper – “will monitor the progress on a regular basis,” according to the notes of last week’s meeting. 

This “will demonstrate to the Chinese partners that the EU takes the implementation of the summit seriously,” the notes add.

The European Commission presented its first post-summit evaluation report of the last EU-China meeting at the Coreper last week. The EU executive was asked to inform Coreper about any obstacles in its ongoing multi-front negotiation with China, aimed at improving bilateral trading relations and the reform the global trading system.

EU summits too

But EU countries will not stop here. They are ready to launch a similar process for the EU-Japan summit, held in April. And they also want to exert peer pressure as the objective would be to follow a similar process for the implementation of EU summit conclusions.

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The Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Ireland, Belgium, Poland, Czech Republic and the UK have all spoken in favour of such a new mechanism during last week’s ambassadors’ meeting.

Germany was the most enthusiastic, saying such a follow-up exercise should be repeated every two months, instead of every three months like France had suggested. 

Berlin also said it wanted to look at “substantive issues,” rather than merely being informed about follow up to planned meetings with China. 

LEAK: Europe puts pressure on Beijing ahead of EU-China summit

The European Union is ready to refuse signing a joint statement with China at a bilateral summit next Tuesday (9 April), as Europeans request stronger commitment from Beijing on the economy, trade and human rights, according to official EU notes prepared in advance of the summit.

Although they agreed to focus the monitoring on a few priorities, EU member states disagreed when it came to selecting the top ones.

Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Ireland, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom would like trade issues to be priorities, including access to the Chinese market, the protection of intellectual property rights and geographical indications, as well as the monitoring of the EU EU-China comprehensive investment agreement. 

France, Germany, Belgium and the UK also wanted to focus on WTO reform, a key piece of the EU strategy to uphold the multilateral rule-based order in the midst of a global trade dispute.

A few countries, mostly Belgium and Sweden, mentioned the issue of human rights.

EU, China agree on joint statement as Beijing makes last-ditch concessions

EU leaders were set to sign a joint declaration with Chinese leadership on Tuesday (9 April), after Beijing made last-minute concessions to bolster the rules-based international order and to tackle industrial subsidies, European officials told EURACTIV.com.

The EU and China succeeded to agree on a joint statement last April, after Beijing made last-minute concessions to meet European demands, primarily on forced transfers of technology, trade barriers and WTO reform.

Intense agenda

The EU-China summit followed the EU’s rebranding of China as a “systemic rival”,  a move which illustrated worries in Europe over Beijing’s attempt to establish itself as a tech superpower while not being a democratic system. 

The EU and China are now expected to have numerous meetings at various levels in the coming months to follow up on the April summit. Topics include foreign affairs, cybersecurity, and bilateral investments that will be examined by the EU-China economic and trade working group as well as the EU-China joint WTO reform working group.

The EU is also interested in organising an EU-China High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue in September. 

The Commission told EU ambassadors that the summit brought “new impetus” to many issues that had been blocked for months, including the EU-China Civil Aviation Safety Agreement.

But there were still problems with the recognition of geographical indications of 100 European food products and on visa facilitation and combating illegal migration.

US-China talks blocking concessions to EU, Brussels complains

The ongoing US-China trade negotiations are affecting the concessions Europe is seeking from Beijing to save the bilateral summit next Tuesday, as the Chinese authorities are prioritizing now an agreement with Washington, European sources told Euractiv.com.

A spokesperson of the Mission of China to the EU suggested that the April summit marked a new start to bilateral relations.

“As Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said to the press during the 21st China-EU Summit, the joint statement published after the Summit is not just a document of general positions, but also one that sets a clear direction for future cooperation,” the spokesperson told EURACTIV in an e-mailed statement.

Both sides are expected to sign the agreement on civil aviation safety this week, seen as “a major outcome of China-EU practical cooperation.”

“China and the EU maintain close communication on the future high-level exchanges,” the spokesperson added.

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