Speech by H.E. Ambassador Zhang Ming at the Exclusive Year-end Dialogue with Business Leaders
12 December 2020
President Joshum Haakma,
President Zhou Lihong,
Dear friends from the Chinese and EU business communities,
It is a great pleasure to join friends old and new in this webinar to discuss issues of shared interest.
This year is a special one for all. The outbreak and global spread of the COVID-19 have taken a heavy toll on global industrial and supply chains. The world economy is in the most severe recession since the 1930s. It is a challenge for all to get the economy back on track.
On the bright side, the China-EU economic and trade relations demonstrate resilience during the crisis. From January to November, our bilateral trade approached 620 billion US dollars, up by 4.7% year on year. China’s exports to the EU and the EU exports to China are both on the rise. China is now the EU’s largest trading partner. EUCCC President Joerg Wuttke recently said that, with the resumption of China’s economic activities, many EU companies in China have seen double-digit growth, and that it is with the help of China market that some companies have made profits in the region.
The resilience of China-EU economic and trade relations, first and foremost, comes from the win-win nature of China-EU cooperation. This year, we held the China-Germany-EU video summit, the 22nd China-EU Summit and other high-level events. We launched the High-Level Dialogue on Environment and Climate Change, and the High-Level Digital Dialogue. The China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership has gained new political momentum. We formally signed the geographical indications agreement. Xixia mushrooms, Yingde black tea, Bavarian beer, Parma ham and other iconic agri-food produce will be better protected and promoted in each other’s market. China-EU trade will be brought to a higher level. The negotiation on the China-EU investment agreement, closely watched by many, has made major progress. This has made us more hopeful for good news at an early date.
The resilience of China-EU economic and trade relations also comes from China’s continued commitment to reform and opening-up. This year, China’s Foreign Investment Law entered into force. The number of items on the FDI negative list has been reduced to 33. China’s doors are opened still wider in sectors that interest the EU, such as finance, infrastructure, environment protection and automobile. The latest World Bank report elevated China’s global ranking to 31st in ease of doing business, and recognized China’s strong commitment and effective delivery of reform agenda, active participation of the private sector and easy access to digital technologies.
The resilience of China-EU economic and trade relations is anchored in China’s commitment to multilateralism and free trade. Last month, RCEP was concluded. The world’s largest FTA is taking shape, covering 30% of global population and 29% of global GDP. China will also favorably consider joining the CPTPP. A prosperous and open Asia-Pacific will open up new horizons with greater opportunities for China-EU economic and trade cooperation.
China and the EU, having withstood the test of COVID-19, are embracing new opportunities in economic and trade cooperation. The EU has rolled out a historic recovery plan, featuring green and digital transitions at a faster pace. China has made extraordinary efforts to contain the virus and restore the economy. This year, China is expected to achieve positive growth, which will bring hopes and driving forces for global recovery.
China recently adopted the proposals for the 14th Five-Year Plan and the long-range objectives through 2035. China will step up efforts to foster a new development paradigm with the domestic circulation as the mainstay, and the domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other. It must be emphasized that China is promoting dual circulations, not a single domestic circulation, still less a circulation behind closed doors. Despite the drastic changes in the world, China’s fundamental policy of opening-up remains unchanged. In the coming decade, China is expected to continue to contribute about 30% of global growth. China’s imports are estimated to top 22 trillion US dollars. By 2035, China is expected to double its per capita income or total GDP. China is not only a world factory, but also the largest market in the world. I believe that business leaders like you here have strong business acumen and will find plenty of opportunities in such a huge growing market.
To translate opportunities into concrete results, market players need to act proactively and creatively. And it is up to governments to foster a fair, just and non-discriminatory market environment. We are of the view that China and the EU are each other’s opportunity and partner. What matters most is for our two sides to deliver on the commitment to mutual benefit, openness, cooperation, multilateralism and free trade, and not to turn business issues into politics. This should be the spirit that guides our frank and fruitful discussions. I am more than happy to listen to your opinions and suggestions, and address your concerns and questions.
Likewise, I hope that our EU partners could give heed to business voices from both sides as well. There is a widely shared concern among Chinese companies operating in the EU that in recent years, especially during the COVID-19, the EU business environment has become less friendly, adding uncertainties to their businesses here. They jokingly describe the EU’s anti-trust review, FDI screening and foreign subsidies review as ‘three huge mountains” weighing heavily on their chests. Some high-tech companies complain that their access is restricted to 5G cooperation projects, as non-technical factors could be arbitrarily used in security assessment, and that their products could be labeled unsafe without any evidence. Such moves are obviously against the principles that the EU has long held, nor do they contribute to the EU’s economic recovery and long-term development. In the first three quarters this year, Chinese investment to the EU dropped by 26.1% from the previous year, which could not be more telling. Hopefully, our EU partners could take such concerns more seriously.
As Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the G20 Summit, when COVID-19 is over, our world will rise from the pandemic and emerge even stronger. We have good reason to be optimistic about the prospects of China-EU economic and trade cooperation, and make joint efforts to deliver the future we all want.
I wish you a Merry Christmas, and a safe, healthy and happy New Year.