Beijing promises an investment deal by next year, to curb industrial subsidies and the need for tech transfers, while the EU promises its own transport network
- Pepe Escobar
Sparks did fly in Brussels, but in the end the European Union and China managed to come up with an important joint statement at their summit this week, signed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and head of the European Council, Donald Tusk.
In theory, there’s agreement on three quite sensitive fronts: a complex, wide-ranging EU-China investment deal to be signed “by the end of next year, or earlier”, according to Li; Beijing to increasingly commit to erasing industrial subsidies and the obligation of technological transfers; and a substantial opening-up of the Chinese market to EU companies.
The EU is the largest combined market in the world and China’s top partner in trade, while China is the EU’s second largest trading partner. So, the EU-China summit on Tuesday was the real deal, unlike the endless Brexit soap opera.
Departing from concentric circles of posturing, the EU did not even blast China as a “systemic rival” – following the recent report EU-China: A Strategic Outlook. And there were no accusations of “unfair” trade hurled at Beijing.
Crucially, Brussels and Beijing seem to be finally engaging in building some sort of synergy between the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and something only Eurocrats know actually exists – the EU Connecting Europe and Asia project, which in theory should advance in conjunction with the Trans-European Transport Network – a rail, road and air connectivity drive.
Diplomats in Brussels said off-the-record that the run-up towards this entente cordiale was as bumpy as a trail in the Tibetan plateau. EU negotiators did try to walk away from the table without even talking to their Chinese counterparts, over Beijing’s much promised, and always delayed “market reforms”.
It’s as if the EU – in practice, the leading Franco-German duo – was trying to pull a Trump, employing hardcore pressure to extract concessions. It worked. …