Delayed summit held virtually . . .
The European Union (EU) and China held their annual summit virtually on Monday, after initial delays due to COVID-19. The event brought together German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission. While topics such as trade practices, the economy, and COVID-19 were on the agenda, a key goal was the advancement of an investment deal. Despite both sides agreeing to expedite the discussion, there was no breakthrough.
A growing EU consensus . . .
While there is now a consensus in the U.S. that the policy of ‘engagement’ with China has failed and that China needs to be confronted on various issues ranging from trade to human rights to cybersecurity, EU member states are still debating the path forward with China. China’s increasing power has posed a significant issue for the EU in charting a common foreign policy, especially as individual member states have their own positions and pursue their own interests vis-à-vis Beijing. But a consensus seems to be emerging among most member states, with the possible exception of Germany (which accounts for more than half of the value of the EU’s total exports to China), about taking more critical actions on China.
The future of EU-China relations . . .
While the EU and the U.S.’s stances on China are still divergent, a unified vision within the EU to confront China’s trade practices and human rights violations could bring it into closer alignment with a less hawkish U.S. position on China should the upcoming U.S. election usher in a new foreign policy team. For Canada, it will be vital to understand its allies’ views of China as it charts its own China strategy. It has been argued that a unified European approach to China that would emphasize co-operation and partnership on certain issues, while competing and criticizing China on others, could lead to a “trans-Atlantic front” on China, providing Canada with an opportunity to work and stand with its traditional allies to address one of the major challenges it faces on the global stage.