China is an economic partner but US is an ally, Portuguese FM insists

During a hearing at the Portuguese parliament, Santos Silva was asked whether a recent EU-China trade deal could affect transatlantic relations and particularly US relations with Lisbon. [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET]

Portugal’s foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva said on Tuesday (10 February) that China is no substitute for the United States, emphasising that Beijing is an economic partner while Washington is an ally.

During a hearing in the Portuguese parliament, Santos Silva was asked whether a recent EU-China trade deal could affect transatlantic relations and particularly US relations with Lisbon.

“Portugal has trade partners all over the world and China is one of them. China is no substitute for the United States. Our allies are among the EU member states, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, the Atlantic Alliance and the Portuguese-speaking countries,” Santos Silva said.

The Portuguese top diplomat said the German EU presidency signed the trade agreement with China and that Lisbon would continue with “prudence” to do everything possible to make it a success.

The hearing was held at the request of the Socialist Party (PS) parliamentary group, following the 44th meeting of the Permanent Bilateral Commission between Portugal and the US. The meeting held by videoconference on 17 December, against the background of changes in US foreign policy with the new US President, Joe Biden.

Santos Silva explained that Washington was Portugal’s first trading partner after the EU and that Lisbon sees the new US administration as an “opportunity to refresh” bilateral relations.

“With the new president, a new avenue for cooperation in relations with the United States opens up, which has been growing [in recent years]. With Biden there is, yes, greater alignment in foreign policy, multilateralism and the world agenda,” he said.

According to Santos Silva, Biden reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to NATO and presented three priorities for US foreign policy, such as holding a climate summit in April this year, another with the leaders of democratic countries, and driving a shift in focus towards the Indo-Pacific region.

Santos Silva indicated that convergence with the United States makes the EU-India summit more useful, and an “absolutely essential” priority of Portugal’s six-month presidency of the EU.

The idea is that Portugal can serve as a pivot between the three markets and regions, “an opportunity that must not be missed,” Santos Silva said.

In an interview with EURACTIV in January, Santos Silva said revamped EU-India relations could counterbalance the bloc’s relations with China.

“This is our aim, we don’t hide it, and it is why we proposed a high-level meeting with India following the high-level meeting with China,” he said.

Revamped EU-India link could re-balance China ties, Portuguese FM says

Relations between the EU and India, especially in the context of an increasingly influential China, will be the central point of the Portuguese EU presidency, Portugal’s Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview.

[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos and Frédéric Simon | EURACTIV.com]

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