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Other than climate change, can anything else unite Europe and China against Trump?

Some instant takeaways from the EU-China Summit. A timely show of unity, but little real change in interests.

Publishing date
02 June 2017

After a short but fruitful visit to Berlin Li Keqiang is now reaching the end of his trip to Europe, attending the EU-China summit in Brussels.

In Germany, Li left with a 2.7 billion gift in the form of Deutsche Bank’s commitment to invest in the Belt and Road Initiative.  In addition, the “reciprocity” concerns generally raised by the German government regarding China seemed to have been less prominent during this bilateral summit. The reason probably lies in Merkel and Li’s joint attempt to appear as the saviorus of multilateralism against an increasingly isolationist Trump.

In Brussels, China and Europe’s seemingly united vision of global priorities looked even more real after Trump’s announcement that the US would pull out of the Paris Agreement.  One could argue that Trump’s announcement was dreadfully timed, considering that the leaders of the other two largest economic blocs in the world happened to be together at the time of the announcement.

Based on the above, one could easily – but hastily – draw a rosy picture of EU-China relations. However, I have doubt that this is really the case, at least for the time being.

First, the European Commission has been negotiating a bilateral investment agreement (BIT) with China for nearly four years, but no indication of a successful conclusion has been given during this summit.

Second, European governments have recently approved the European Commission’s proposal to increase the arsenal of instruments available to fight against dumping. Chinese exports from overcapacity sectors are obviously the ultimate target.  Juncker’s meeting with Li does not seem to have softened the harshness of EU’s incoming anti-dumping measures.

All in all, other than showing unitedness against the US’s unilateralism, especially on climate change, the EU-China summit does not seem to have brought any measurable merging of interests between the EU and China. Europe’s disenchantment with Trump is probably too recent for the EU, a famously slow decision-maker , to pivot towards China just now. This will take much more time – and pain in its long-standing transatlantic Alliance with the US.

About the authors

  • Alicia García-Herrero

    Alicia García Herrero is a Senior Fellow at European think-tank BRUEGEL. She is also the Chief Economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis, and a non-resident Senior Follow at the East Asian Institute (EAI) of the National University Singapore (NUS). Alicia is also Adjunct Professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Finally, she is a Member of the Council of Advisors on Economic Affairs to the Spanish Government and an advisor to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s research arm (HKIMR) among other advisory and academic positions.

    In previous years, Alicia held the following positions: Chief Economist for Emerging Markets at Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), Member of the Asian Research Program at the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), Head of the International Economy Division of the Bank of Spain, Member of the Counsel to the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, Head of Emerging Economies at the Research Department at Banco Santander, and Economist at the International Monetary Fund. Alicia has maintained a part-time academic life throughout her career as Visiting Professor at John Hopkins University (SAIS program), at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai, Carlos III University in Madrid among others.

    Alicia holds a PhD in Economics from George Washington University and has published extensively in refereed journals and books (her publications can be found in ResearchGateGoogle ScholarSSRN or REPEC).

    Alicia is also very active in international media (Bloomberg and CNBC among others) as well as social media (Twitter and LinkedIn). Alicia was included in the TOP Voices in Economy and Finance by LinkedIn in 2017 and #6 Top Social Media leader by Refinitiv in 2020.

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