22 September 2020
EU, China Discuss Biodiversity and Climate Change, Trade in Virtual Meeting
Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash
story highlights

EU and Chinese leaders welcomed progress on the negotiations for the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement and the signature of the EU-China Agreement on Geographical Indications.

The two sides agreed to establish a High-Level Environment and Climate Dialogue and a China-EU High Level Digital Cooperation Dialogue.

Leaders from the EU and China discussed biodiversity and climate change, trade and investment, COVID-19 response, international affairs, and other issues via video conference. After the meeting, EU leaders issued a press release outlining the EU’s ambition in its bilateral relations with China.

The meeting was a follow up to the 22nd EU-China summit that took place on 22 June. President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and Chinese President Xi Jinping chaired the meeting. President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for the Council presidency, also participated.

On biodiversity and climate change, the two sides agreed to establish a High-Level Environment and Climate Dialogue to pursue ambitious joint commitments. The EU recognized China as a global partner in preserving biodiversity, tackling climate change, and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The EU encouraged China to be “even more ambitious,” and said China should commit to setting a goal of climate neutrality and launching its national emissions trading system soon. The EU also emphasized the need for a moratorium in China on building coal-fired power plants and financing their construction abroad.

On trade and investment, EU and Chinese leaders welcomed progress on the negotiations for the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement, particularly on transparency of subsidies, forced technology transfer, and rules regulating the behavior of state-owned enterprises. Both sides welcomed the signature of the EU-China Agreement on Geographical Indications, which is expected to improve access to the Chinese market for high-quality European agricultural products. Leaders expressed their commitment to accelerate negotiations of the China-EU Bilateral Investment Treaty, and agreed to establish a China-EU High Level Digital Cooperation Dialogue and forge green and digital partnerships. The EU stressed that more needs to be done to improve market access in areas including agri-food, the digital sector, and financial services. Michel said the EU wants “more fairness” and a “more balanced relationship” on trade, and recognized the Agreement on Geographical Indications as “a big step in the right direction.”

On COVID-19 response, the EU underscored the shared responsibility to lead global efforts for development and deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine, and called on all countries to participate in an independent and comprehensive review of lessons learned from the international health response to COVID-19. The EU said recovery measures should support a transition to a greener, more sustainable economy.

On international affairs, the EU, inter alia: called on China to uphold the rules-based international system; expressed concern about steps taken by China to impose national security legislation in Hong Kong, saying Hong Kong’s autonomy must be preserved and its people’s rights protected; and emphasized the need for China to adhere to international standards to support sustainable development, especially in Africa. Leaders agreed to discuss these and other human rights issues in detail at the Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing, China, later in 2020.

Xi proposed four principles China and the EU should adhere to for developing their bilateral relationship: a peaceful coexistence; cooperation and openness; multilateralism; and dialogue and consultation. He said China is ready to step up dialogue and coordination at bilateral, regional, and global levels, and is committed to a global governance outlook based on consultation, contribution, and shared benefits that defends the international order and places the UN at the core.

Following the meeting, Michel said the EU “must strive for a relationship that delivers on our mutual commitments” and generates concrete results for both the EU and China. Michel stressed that real differences exist but the EU is ready to engage and to “cooperate where we can” to find concrete solutions and a relationship “based on reciprocity, responsibility and basic fairness.”

The EU and China anticipate holding an EU-China Leaders’ Meeting in 2021. [EU Press Release] [European Council Press Release] [European Council President Statement] [Background Press Release] [Xinhuanet News Story]

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