Amid escalated Sino-US hostility, China-EU deal expected in this month

The EU has attached extremely high or even wishful expectations that Biden’s administration

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The 35th round of negotiations for the China-EU investment agreement – a landmark deal closely binding the economic interests of China and Europe – concludes on Friday and is expected to be signed at the end of 2020 before Joe Biden formally takes his oath as US president in January.

The agreement goes full steam ahead at a time when the US and EU are eyeing to patch up trans-Atlantic ties and Biden actively promotes an ideological alliance to counter China’s influence with Europe now stepping up its pressure on China over human rights issues and harshly criticizing so-called “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy.

The EU has attached extremely high or even wishful expectations that Biden’s administration will return the US as leader of the West, which could impact China-EU ties as Brussels navigates its ties with Beijing and Washington in a trilateral game of trade and diplomacy, said Chinese experts.

The EU is likely to seek common ground with the Biden administration to pressure China on issues like human rights, ideology, Hong Kong and Xinjiang, but China does not want to see the cooperation and consensus it has reached with the EU to be impacted, the experts noted.

Gao Feng, spokesperson of the Ministry of Commerce, said at Thursday’s press conference that China and the EU are in the midst of the 35th round of negotiation of the China-EU investment agreement, and both sides are aiming to solve “leftover problems” and realize the goals set by the leaders of the two sides.

However, in a Reuter’s article published on the same day, EU Ambassador Nicolas Chapuis, said at an energy forum in Beijing that the EU hopes to reach agreement with the new US administration on a policy toward China.

“We need to have a common understanding to say ‘no’ to bullying and intimidation, coercive diplomacy, ‘wolf-warrior’ diplomacy,” he said, according to Reuters, referring to China’s increasingly assertive foreign policy and confident diplomatic style.

Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University of China, said that it seems like the return of US establishment elites has made some EU officials “too excited” as they can’t wait to stand with the US to reach some strategic consensus toward China, but neither side is likely to see trans-Atlantic relations return to the same level they were in the past. 

Hyping “the common threat from China” won’t help solve key problems and disagreements between the EU and the US, Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times.

The EU has a long “problem list” for the US after Biden takes office, including trade frictions, digital services tax, carbon tariffs, long-arm jurisdiction, NATO’s budget, ties with Turkey and the Iranian nuclear deal, Cui noted.

The top priorities for the new Biden administration will be domestic issues, so the US won’t be able to quickly solve problems with the EU, allowing China to increase cooperation with the EU, said Chinese analysts.

“China is prepared for some changes from the EU, but no matter how many differences or frictions occur, we hope trade, investment agreements and other existing cooperation won’t be affected

 

 

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