Prioritising blue economy

Brussels' Europe-China Forum eyes closer cooperation in energy transition, connectivity

At the 8th edition of Friends of Europe's Europe-China Forum, held on 28 November in Brussels, were highlighted the mutual ties in the context of the opportunities and common challenges ahead. The forum, moderated by Shada Islam, Director of Europe and Geopolitics at Friends of Europe, brought together policymakers, business representatives and leading academics from across Europe and China.

During the discussion were outlined possibilities for closer cooperation on issues like the energy transition and more inclusive connectivity projects, and at the same time the debate focused on the ways to overcome challenges posed in areas such as trade and investment.

The reforms in China that opened the country to foreign competition started exactly 40 years ago and contributed to a huge transformation putting the country among top three of the world's economies. European companies prefer more ambitious market liberalisation and reforms in China and the EU calls for reciprocity and openness in China's approach to foreign investments. Among the questions discussed was how close China and the EU are to concluding a Bilateral Investment Treaty and could such a deal, or Chinese demands for an EU-China free trade agreement, ease European concerns over the rise of Chinese investments in Europe. Also on the agenda was China's Belt and Road Initiative, launched six years ago, and the question of whether there can be real synergies between this initiative and the EU's connectivity blueprint, tabled in September this year, and if so, in which sectors and in which countries.

As Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the EU Zhang Ming underscored, China and the EU are partners, not rivals, adding that “between us, there are no fundamental clashes of interests and we can achieve win-win results”. He also accented on the need to handle the differences with the EU properly, “as we are getting closer and try to align our interests”.

The dynamism in EU-China relations is a very clear indicator of the strong bonds that we have, not only in relation to our historical bonds, but especially in relation to our economic bonds, Gunnar Wiegand, Managing Director for Asia Pacific at the European External Action Service (EEAS) Directorate for Asia and the Pacific, noted.

Talking at the forum, Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said that the EU works closely with China on the blue economy. He emphasised that “making the blue economy a joint priority will open up a new phase in our bilateral partnership”.

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