BEIJING — Premier Li Keqiang’s upcoming visit to Europe from May 31 to June 2 is expected to further deepen and enrich China’s relations with the European Union (EU) at a time of increasing global uncertainty.
During the three-day visit, Premier Li will travel to Germany and Belgium, where he will meet with European leaders in an effort to enhance mutual political trust and expand pragmatic cooperation between the two sides, to inject fresh impetus into China’s relations with the two countries.
ROOT FOR A MULTIPOLAR WORLD
This will be Premier Li’s ninth visit to Europe and third to Germany since he took office as the Premier in 2013. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a frequent visitor to China. Both European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel visited China last year.
Such frequent high-level exchanges between China and the EU testify the common grounds and interests shared by the two sides despite an ever-changing international landscape, and showcase their common desire for cooperation and development.
One of the most prominent features of China-EU interaction is their regular meetings, which have served as an important platform for Chinese and European leaders to work together and steadily promote the China-EU ties, noted Mei Zhaorong, former Chinese ambassador to Germany.
In Berlin, Premier Li is scheduled to attend an annual meeting between the Chinese Premier and the German chancellor, a mechanism that has been in place since 2004. In Brussels, the Premier will attend the 19th China-EU leaders’ meeting.
“These regular meetings have played a very positive role in strengthening mutual political trust and deepening practical cooperation between the two sides, and have kept pushing forward the China-EU relationship,” said Mei.
Currently, Europe is facing a multitude of challenges such as the debt crisis, terror threats and the refugee crisis. With the isolationism signaled by US President Donald Trump, the United States has yet been clear on its policy towards Europe.
Despite these challenges, China has been pursuing a consistent and positive policy towards the EU, and has remained confident in its cooperation with the bloc, noted Ruan Zongze, executive vice-president of China Institute of International Studies.
China is a supporter of European integration -- the basis for a united, prosperous and stable EU and a strong euro -- which is conducive to the development of a multipolar world featuring economic globalization and cultural diversification.
CHAMPIONING FREE TRADE
Against the backdrop of a rising anti-globalization wave, the need for China and the EU to join hands in opposing trade protectionism and safeguarding an open world economy is more urgent now than ever, experts say.
China and the EU share broad common interests and a similar stand on free trade, investment and global economic governance, according to Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Chao.
With Premier Li’s visit, said Ruan, China will strive to work with the EU and send a positive signal to the world that the two large economies are committed to free trade and economic globalization. With such efforts, China and the EU could serve as stabilizers of world economy.
However, the development of China-EU economic ties has not always been a smooth sail. The EU has yet implemented its obligations under Article 15 of the protocol on China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), seen as a “stumbling block” in their economic cooperation, as Foreign Minister Wang Yi put it.
In accordance with Article 15, WTO members should cease the surrogate country approach in anti-dumping investigations on China after Dec 11, 2016, which expires exactly 15 years after China’s admission.
The surrogate country approach allows an importing WTO member state to refer to prices or costs of the like product in a third country to calculate the value of Chinese products and determine whether it constitutes an act of dumping.
“As a member of the WTO, the EU has been refraining from fulfilling its international obligations, which is in fact a form of protectionism, and which goes against the notion of free trade advocated by the bloc,” said Mei.
“Cooperation and competition coexist in the China-EU relations, yet cooperation and win-win is the theme,” said Ruan, calling on the EU to abandon trade protectionism and fulfill its due obligations, so as to join hands with China in advancing free trade and globalization.
UNLEASH POTENTIAL FOR COOPERATION
Economic and trade ties between China and the EU, deemed as the cornerstone of their relations, are expected to top the agenda of Premier Li’s Europe tour.
In Brussels, the Premier will attend a China-EU business summit and a signing ceremony of cooperation documents between small and medium-sized enterprises.
The EU is China’s largest trading partner and China is the EU’s second largest. In 2016, China overtook the United States and became Germany’s largest trading partner, according to Germany’s Federal Statistics Office.
With Premier Li’s visit, China and the EU seek to further unleash their potential for cooperation, with innovation cooperation being a new highlight, according to Ruan.
As the powerhouse of European economy, Germany is one of the most innovative countries in the world. Though being a small country, Belgium has unique advantages in fields such as the chemical industry, nuclear energy and biological medicine. By cooperating with the EU, China is poised to enhance its capacity for innovation.
“China needs Europe’s advanced technology, while Europe needs China’s vast market,” said Ruan, adding that innovation cooperation would broaden the areas and enhance the level of the China-EU cooperation.
In Europe, Premier Li will attend several innovation-themed activities and witness the signing of a series of cooperative deals covering areas such as new energy, inter-connectivity, banking, tourism and education.