22 June 2020

EU-China summit via video conference, 22 June 2020

The European Union and China held their 22nd bilateral Summit via videoconference on 22 June 2020. President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, accompanied by High Representative Josep Borrell, hold the Summit meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang followed by exchanges with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

President Michel said: “EU-China relations have evolved in recent years. Our economic interdependency is high, and we must work together on global challenges like climate action, meeting the Sustainable Development Goals or dealing with COVID-19. Engaging and cooperating with China is both an opportunity and necessity. But, at the same time, we have to recognise that we do not share the same values, political systems, or approach to multilateralism. We will engage in a clear-eyed and confident way, robustly defending EU interests and standing firm on our values.”

President von der Leyen said: “The COVID-pandemic and a number of major bilateral and multilateral challenges show clearly the EU – China partnership is crucial, be it in terms of trade, climate, technology, and the defence of multilateralism. But for our relations to develop further, they must become more rules-based and reciprocal, in order to achieve a real level playing-field.”

The EU-China summit had a comprehensive agenda addressing bilateral relations; regional and international issues, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery.

Bilateral relations

The EU stressed the need for progress on the implementation of the commitments made at the 2019 EU-China Summit, including advancing negotiations for an EU-China Comprehensive Investment Agreement that ensures a level playing field and addresses asymmetries in market access  

The EU expressed also its willingness to sign the EU-China Agreement on Geographical Indications in the coming weeks and see its entry into force in nearest future.

Global challenges

Leaders had a substantive discussion on climate change. China is the EU’s partner under the Paris Agreement, but needs to commit to decisive and ambitious domestic action to reduce emissions in the short term and to set a goal of climate neutrality at the earliest possible date.

The EU stressed that the development of new digital technologies must go hand in hand with the respect of fundamental rights and data protection. The EU also raised outstanding issues on cybersecurity, disinformation.

The EU called on China to assume greater responsibility in dealing with global challenges through the rules-based international system, promoting international peace and security, and adhering to international standards to support sustainable development, especially in Africa. 

COVID-19 pandemic

The EU underlined the shared responsibility to:

  • participate in global efforts to stop the spread of the virus
  • boost research on treatments and vaccines
  • support a green and inclusive global recovery
  • show solidarity in addressing the consequences in developing countries
  • participate in the independent review of lessons learned from the international health response to COVID-19
  • to facilitate the return of EU residents in China.

Regional and international issues

The EU and China discussed international issues such as Afghanistan,the situation on the Korean Peninsula and Iran and the implementation of the nuclear deal (JCPOA).

EU leaders also expressed their concerns at steps taken by China to impose national security legislation in Hong Kong, as well as on the deteriorating human rights situation, including the treatment of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and of human rights defenders, as well as restrictions on fundamental freedoms

Finally the EU also underlined its expectation that the Human Rights Dialogue will take place in China later in the year once the COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

Brief History of the EU China Relations

The EU’s approach towards China was set out in a Strategy adopted in 2016 and updated in March 2019 in a Joint Communication of the European Commission and the High Representative. The balance of challenges and opportunities presented by China has shifted over time. For the EU, China is simultaneously (in different policy areas) a cooperation partner, a negotiation partner, an economic competitor and a systemic rival. The EU pursues realistic, effective and coherent engagement with China, based on our values and interests.

Source: European Council, Council of the European Union