A summit by video conference . . .
The 22nd EU-China summit took place on Monday via video conference. It sought to cool tensions over the COVID-19 outbreak and Hong Kong's new National Security Law. The summit was the first formal meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, and the new EU leadership – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, who took office last December. Earlier this month, the two sides exchanged opinions as part of the EU-China Strategic Dialogue.
Investment, Hong Kong, and WTO reform . . .
While the summit made progress on the China-EU investment agreement, which the two sides said they hope to sign by the end of this year, essential differences remain over the deal and on other issues. European officials are concerned that the US-China trade deal gives preferential treatment to Washington, and hope an EU-China agreement would level the playing field in China for European companies by allowing them greater market access. Beyond trade, EU leaders expressed their “grave concern” over the Hong Kong security law and stressed the need for China to engage in negotiations on WTO reform.
Some consensus amid major differences . . .
No joint statement was expected after the summit, and none materialized. But the two sides published separate press releases with drastically different narratives. The Chinese Foreign Ministry highlighted that co-operation between the two sides outweighed competition, while the EU clearly stated that there are fundamental differences that need to be addressed. Notably, the EU statement mentioned the detention of two Canadian citizens – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – and its concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in China. While the China-US rift remains deep, the outcomes of the EU-China summit suggest that significant differences persist between Europe and China on an investment agreement and several critical international issues. The investment deal may be further away than the two sides had hoped.
- Al Jazeera: EU, China summit to cool tensions over coronavirus, Hong Kong
- European Council: EU-China Summit: Defending EU interests and values in a complex and vital partnership - Press release by President Michel and President von der Leyen
- South China Morning Post: EU-China summit: Beijing puts focus on consensus, while Brussels highlights differences