On 13 May 2019 in Brussels, the Baillet Latour Chair of EU-China Relations and the EU-China Research Centre, College of Europe, held the International Conference "EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation", organized in partnership with the European Economic and Social Committee.
The aim of this conference was bringing together a wide range of international top-level academics, practitioners and policymakers, in order to set the stage for a stocktaking exercise of the EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation, as well as to assess the overall scale and scope of progress and problems in bilateral relations between the EU and China.
The conference was opened by Professor Jing MEN, Baillet Latour Chair of EU-China Relations and Director of the EU-China Research Centre, and by Sir Graham WATSON, Member of the EESC.
Initial remarks on the overall state of EU-China relations and on their future direction were made by high-level panellists Weiyi XIAN (Minister Counsellor of the Chinese Mission to the EU, speaking on behalf of H.E. Ambassador Ming ZHANG), H.E. Ambassador Viorel ISTICIOAIA-BUDURA (Ambassador-at-Large for Asian Regional Affairs at the Romanian MFA) and George CUNNINGHAM (Strategic Adviser on Asia-Pacific Affairs at EEAS).
Throughout three different panels, 15 outstanding speakers with different background and specialisations presented and discussed their research, also by fruitfully interacting with around 90 attendants. Discussions thus managed to sketch an all-comprehensive assessment of how EU-China relations have progressed under the 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation, from its launch in 2013 to the latest turning point of the 2019 EU-China Summit.
Among others, the conference succeeded in clearly setting out the following:
- The 2020 Strategic Agenda has not been a fixed and static framework for cooperation, but it has readapted itself in accordance with the evolution of EU-China relations, thus keeping an open door for dialogue, both in times of harmony and tensions.
- EU-China relations cannot be defined as purely bilateral ties, as they are not only a part of the much broader international system, but also multilateral by nature, and their shape thus is the result of a certain tension between such bilateralism/multilateralism and its domestic repercussions.
- Since the launch of the 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation, significant convergence between the EU and China has been achieved in areas like Circular Economy, public procurement, and CSR. Strong disparities remain in other areas, including e-commerce and the most advanced digital technologies. Overall, structural barriers hinder further cooperation even in those areas where progress was made under the current Agenda.
- In order to overcome these barriers, the definition of a new Strategic Agenda for Cooperation should start by acknowledging fundamental differences between China and the EU and closely monitoring their evolution, also by looking at the activities of non-traditional actors in foreign policy-making.
- A swift and effective implementation of the Joint Declaration of the 2019 EU-China Summit will be pivotal to building mutual trust and supporting the definition of a new Strategic Agenda by the next Summit.
A full report of this conference will be published on the next issue of the EU-China Observer.