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Remarks by Ambassador ZHANG Ming At the Policy Dialogue "the EU-China Strategic Partnership 15 Years on-What Direction for the Next 15 Years?"
2018-10-26 23:26

26 October 2018, European Policy Center

Chief Executive Fabian Zuleeg,

Mr. Gunnar Wiegand,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to thank EPC for organizing this event and inviting me to speak on this important topic.

As Ambassador, I am proud to see how much has been achieved since China and the EU established the comprehensive strategic partnership 15 years ago. Figures are convincing.

--Bilateral trade was 125.2 billion US dollars 15 years ago, while just in the first eight months of this year, trade already reached 445 billion dollars. At the end of this year, we could expect an amount more than four times that of 15 years ago.

--In the past 15 years, mutual visits increased from 3 million to over 7 million. 600 flights travel between China and the EU every week.

Numbers are lifeless, but they give a lively expression to the close ties between China and the EU.

Some are asking what is the definition of a comprehensive strategic partnership. "Comprehensive" means that our cooperation is not just about trade, but about a broad range of areas, like foreign policy, security, culture, science and technology, global governance, to name just a few. We have nearly 80 dialogue mechanisms at different levels and in different fields.

"Strategic" means that we embrace a big-picture and long-term thinking for cooperation, going beyond our differences in history, cultures, development modes and political system. In a time of uncertainties, strategic partners are poised to communicate on major issues with a sense of trust, and enhance coordination to add a sense of certainty.

The spirit of the comprehensive strategic partnership is born out by concrete actions. Ten years ago, in the wake of global financial crisis, China kept its investment in Europe and took swift actions to purchase European bonds.

China supports a united, stable, open and prosperous EU. This is our consistent and firm stance, never swayed by those pessimistic views on European integration.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Things are moving very quickly, and sometimes surprisingly, around us. Many are looking to China and the EU to inject more positive energy into our turbulent times. At the China-EU summit last July and the ASEM summit last week, leaders of the two sides had good discussions. I was present on both occasions. Several things stood out in the conversations.

First, the commitment to multilateralism and international rules. Both the China-EU summit and the ASEM summit sent clear signals of resisting unilateralism and protectionism and upholding the rules-based multilateral trade system. In their ASEM remarks, Premier Li Keqiang, President Tusk and other European leaders expressed the shared commitment to preserving multilateralism and jointly addressing global challenges. This is not just in our own interests, but in the common interests of the international community and out of full respect for global rules.

Second, the commitment to better global governance. Three issues are of crucial importance in this regard. Number one, climate change. Both China and the EU are playing a big role. The July summit adopted a statement on climate actions. Number two, the Iran nuclear deal. China and the EU are not merely protecting the deal itself, but also peace and stability in the Middle East and the broader international non-proliferation regime. Number three, free trade. China and the EU are both advocates of open world economy, and the WTO-centered multilateral trade system. We established a joint working group on WTO reform, which already met for the first time. In addition, we keep close communication and coordination on Syria, Afghanistan and other hotspot issues, and push for a political solution. It is widely recognized that China and the EU are both sensible and staunch forces for an equitable global order.

Third, the commitment to connectivity. At the July summit, both sides agreed to forge synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the EU's initiatives. It is encouraging to note that the recently adopted communication on the strategy for connecting Europe and Asia refers to China as a priority partner. At the ASEM summit, connectivity cooperation was widely endorsed, and would be further substantiated as agreed by the summit participants. China is ready to join forces with the EU to advance projects that are up to high standards and high quality, strengthen both "hardware connectivity" in terms of infrastructure and "soft connectivity" in terms of institutions, policies, rules and standards. Together, we could add new impetus to the development of Europe and Asia.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Many of you are China experts with a keen interest in its future. 40 years ago, China made a bold decision to start reform and opening-up. Personally, I have witnessed what a big difference it has made since then. I would say that reform and opening-up is widely supported by the 1.4 billion Chinese people, and that it is a certain way to go if China wants further development in the future. If you look at the new policies introduced by the Chinese government since the 19th Party Congress, it is not difficult to find that many aim to expand reform and opening-up and improve business environment.

On market access, the new foreign investment negative list, which took effect in July, pledged to ease or remove ownership caps on businesses including auto, aircraft and ship manufacturing, finance, transportation and crop breeding. We have announced the decision to scrap ownership limits in the banking sector, and do the same to qualified insurance and securities businesses within the next three years.

On IPR protection, China has unveiled nearly 20 laws and regulations, set up specialized IPR courts, and strengthen enforcement. The royalty and license fee payments made by China to foreign IP owners have increased significantly. The Chinese government prohibits forced transfer of technology, and has made serious promise on many occasions that any infringement will be severely punished.

On expanding import, just in the past six months, China has made massive tariff cuts for three times. From November 1, China will lower tariffs on another 1500-plus items. Currently, China's trade-weighted average tariff rate is 4.4%, close to that of the EU. In ten days, the first international import expo will be open in Shanghai. It is not just another expo in an ordinary sense, but a major policy initiative and commitment taken of our own accord to open up the Chinese market.

Many of the above-mentioned measures go further than what was committed by China upon its WTO accession. They have been taken voluntarily in response to the actual need of China's own development.

European companies are among the first to benefit from these new measures. Two weeks ago, BMW Group announced that it will increase its stake by 25% in its joint venture with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings, and is set to become the first foreign automaker to take majority control of its Chinese venture. As said by Prime Li Keqiang when meeting with BMW CEO Harald Kruger, the BMW story is a good example showing that China's opening-up is not about words, but about actions.

I understand that some European friends are eager to see even more out of reform and opening-up in China. Many of their opinions and recommendations are largely in line with our future direction. Their concerns will be gradually and properly addressed on the way ahead, like in the past 40 years.

Still, it is important to note that despite the big total GDP, China's per capita GDP is relatively low. There is great imbalance between urban and rural areas and among different regions. We have difficult challenges to tackle in the course of economic transformation. Development remains daunting, and there is still a long way to go. We hope that European friends could see China's reform, opening-up and development in a more objective light, and with more confidence and patience.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

History is a great source of inspiration. Every time the world came to a critical juncture, China-EU relations could make new steps forward. The growth of China-EU relations has always been accompanied by both opportunities and challenges. It is up to all of us to work together to identify opportunities, seize them and make the best of them for a better future of China-EU relations.

Thank you.

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