Cooperation between China and the European Union should be seen as a steppingstone to a wider global governance partnership and reform, according to a new report.
The report－EU-China Economic Relations to 2025: Building a Common Future－identifies key trends and areas of potential economic collaboration.
It cites the “significant opportunities” and benefits for China and the EU to deepen their economic ties, with scope for an “enormous increase” in investment.
But it also warns of potential obstacles, including “significant differences” between the political and economic systems of China and the EU.
“Building a genuine strategic partnership will require greater effort from both EU and Chinese leaders,” the report says.
The document, published on Sept 13, is the culmination of an 18-month study by Beijing-based China Center for International Economic Exchanges, Brussels-based economic think tank Bruegel, the Chatham House Royal Institute of International Affairs in London and the Institute of Global Economics and Finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
It says the EU and China should conclude an “investment agreement” that would pave the way for a future free trade pact and relax visa requirements for each other’s business people and students.
It also calls for joint research and innovation projects and for greater cooperation on energy security and climate change.
“Against a background in which the United States is increasingly drawing into question its commitments to free trade and the global commons－and with the uncertainty resulting from Brexit－there clearly exists a need for China and the EU not only to increase the breadth and depth of their cooperation, but also to act more strategically in the way they relate to each other,” the report says.
The Belt and Road Initiative is seen by the report’s authors as a platform for further expanding bilateral trade and economic cooperation, with the EU potentially becoming its Western anchor. They say the “strategic goal” of China and the EU should be to move closer “in response to US uncertainty”.
“This is a critically important moment for the EU and China to consider how to deepen the full range of their bilateral economic relationship,” it says.
Trade is the most developed area of interaction between China and the EU, with each being the other’s largest source of imports and second-largest export destination.
While trade relations are well developed, the report says there is room for improvement in foreign investment levels, cooperation on industrial and technological innovation, and financial market integration.
It adds that only a “sensible” Brexit deal will enhance the benefits of closer China-EU relations.
China-EU trade reached 515 billion euros ($613 billion) in 2016, compared with 113 billion euros in 2001.