Why China needs a strong EU

By Fraser Cameron
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, June 24, 2011
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Many EU member states are struggling with low growth rates and severe austerity measures aimed at reducing high levels of national debt and deficits. Unemployment, especially unemployment among the youth, has increased in most EU member states and European companies face fierce competition in almost every sector. The technological gap between EU member states and non-European competitors continues to narrow and European society faces the socio-economic consequences of an ageing and shrinking population.

During his visit to China last month, Herman van Rompuy, president of the European Council, thanked his Chinese hosts for their support and assured them that the future of the euro was not in doubt. He emphasized the importance of preserving an open economic and trade relationship. Several European companies have experienced problems operating in China, he said and urged Chinese leaders to ensure "a level playing field".

China should take on more responsibility for the global economy and be better represented in international financial institutions, he said and asked China to pay more attention to climate change and help the rest of the world to move toward concluding the negotiations in the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization talks.

The EU is trying to develop a common strategy toward China but is handicapped by differing views among its 27 EU member states on issues such as lifting the arms embargo and granting China market economy status.

There have been a number of high-level EU-China meetings in recent weeks, which have sought to tackle some of the most difficult problems. Apart from the visit of Van Rompuy to China, Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, met with State Councilor Dai Bingguo in Hungary during the second meeting of the EU-China High-Level Strategic Dialogue. These talks covered international issues such as the situation in North Africa and the Middle East, as well as economic cooperation.

China of course is facing its own internal problems. Chinese leaders are aware of the social and economic problems facing the country and need a stable international environment and open markets for Chinese exports. This is why the European Union, despite all its current problems, will remain one of the most important partners of China in the coming decades.

The author is director of the EU-Asia Centre in Brussels.

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