Brussels, 20 September 2012
PR PCE 148
Herman Van Rompuy
I am pleased to be at the 8th European Union-China Business Summit. Last February, we met in Beijing. It is important that European and Chinese businesses seize all the opportunities they have to meet and exchange thoughts. More than ever, the economic challenges are high and more than ever, our interests converge. So such exchanges cannot happen often enough!
Currently, the European Union and China are both confronted with the challenge of slowing economic growth, although in a different way. In Europe, we have gone through a mild recession, and we need to find new drivers to create lasting economic growth and employment. China itself is facing a certain slowdown of growth rates and pressures on the job market. So within our own respective contexts, we are both driven towards growth-enhancing short term and long term measures and policies.
Our bilateral cooperation offers opportunities to meet these growth challenges. Therefore, we should continue to work together. Today, you had interesting discussions on the opportunities for further industrial cooperation in the field of R&D, raw materials, intellectual property, the green economy. You have identified investment opportunities. Let us work further on these.
Today, our economic interests converge more than ever. Every single day, China and the European Union trade over 1 billion euro. Only two decades ago, our bilateral trade amounted to close to nothing. Today we form the second largest economic cooperation in the world. In a remarkably short time span our economies have integrated to a point that it is now difficult to imagine one without the other.
China has become the fastest growing market for European exports and the European Union is also China's biggest export destination. We are key business partners to one another, and as such, it is only natural that we focus on deepening our dialogue. Achieving the best possible conditions to make business together is a shared priority. And a lot of progress has already been made.
Here I would like to pay special tribute to Premier Wen Jiabao, for his decisive support towards a market-based approach to innovation, which has been instrumental in facilitating more partnerships between the European Union and Chinese companies on R&D projects.
Premier Wen would agree with me that we can and have to do more. We have to go further in opening our markets and guarantee a level playing field for everyone.
Earlier this year, at the EU-China Summit held in February in Beijing, we agreed to work together on an investment agreement, which will promote investment in both directions, and facilitate the creation of joint ventures, by providing legal certainty, by creating clear rules of the game and by better protecting investments.
Today, you have been discussing how to implement this agreed objective. I know this is a goal that matters to all of us gathered here today, and we all should continue to work on its realisation. And together, we should dare to take a broader view, a more comprehensive view of business relations between China and the European Union.
The idea of "win-win" is often central in our discussions. My belief is that it should be driven not only by cooperation but also by complementarity, looking at what we can best bring each other in the longer term.
In terms of services for instance. Here the EU can contribute to the needs of a growing urban population and the objectives of sustainable growth. It is the basis of our Urban Partnership that we launched a couple of months ago. Let us work further on the implementation of this important partnership.
Before concluding, I should like to use this opportunity to tell you more about the decisions we are taking to place the European economy on sounder footings.
Since the global financial crisis hit Europe, the actions of European leaders have been guided by an unrelenting commitment to stabilise the eurozone and to restore market confidence. We have come a long way, and we still have some way to go, but we are definitely on the right track.
European countries have courageously embraced major structural reforms that had been postponed dangerously long, and these reforms are starting to bear fruit. The competitiveness of some of the countries most affected by market tensions is steadily improving.
We are well aware that reforms need time to bring their full results, and that it can take time for their benefits to be rightfully recognised by markets. So in the meantime, the eurozone as a whole, including the European Central Bank, stands ready to take the short-term measures that may be necessary to support financial stability in countries facing market pressure.
And at the same time, we are working on a longer-term plan to strengthen our Economic and Monetary Union and address systemic flaws in its architecture that have been revealed by the crisis. The vision that we share is that we must work to complete our monetary union with a banking union, a fiscal union, an economic union and a deeper political union. We are working on a roadmap to bring us to this end goal, and this work, for the long-term, is the clearest sign of our unrelenting and collective commitment to the euro. The European Council will discuss my reports in October and December, which were prepared in close cooperation with the Presidents of the European Commission, the Eurogroup and the European Central Bank.
Financial stability is a necessary precondition for economic growth. That is why re-establishing confidence in our currency, showing in words and deeds that it is irreversible, is absolutely key to enhance confidence of consumers and investors and thus growth in Europe and in the world. It is a necessary precondition, but not a sufficient one. We need specific actions to enhance longer term growth, employment and investment.
At our last European Council in June, European leaders adopted a Compact for Growth and Jobs. It is a coherent framework for action at national, Union and eurozone level. All instruments and policies will be oriented towards our goals of growth and employment. Let me highlight some of the main commitments agreed under this Compact:
First, a commitment from our Member States to continue on the path of growth-friendly consolidation. To take measures to return to sound public finances, whilst preserving drivers for growth, such as investment in energy, innovation and education.
Second, and at EU level, a commitment to further deepen the Single Market, especially for network and digital industries. We want to establish a Digital Single Market by 2015.
Third: a commitment to innovation. To support Research & Development and investment opportunities for innovative companies, to develop key enabling technologies, in the field of nanotechnologies, biotechnologies and advanced materials.
Fourth: a commitment to employment: we decided to invest more in skills and training of employers and to launch programmes in order to enhance labour mobility, with a particular focus on youth employment.
Fifth: a commitment to financing the economy. We decided to invest 120 billion euro in fast-acting growth measures.
And last, but not least: A commitment to trade. Trade must be better used as an engine for growth. We remain strongly in favour of open markets according to the international rules. Simply put, to grow faster, we want to enhance our trade performance and our investment relations with partners that have a strong growth potential. And particularly with China, where major opportunities for both sides lie ahead, if together we successfully manage to overcome the obstacles that may still lie in our way.
Creating growth is not an end in itself either. We want growth, for the well-being and welfare of our people. We want growth in our own countries, to promote worldwide growth. Widespread growth is in our common interest. Let us work on it together, Chinese and Europeans, political leaders and entrepreneurs. Together because, as I said, we can only make progress by developing a better understanding and dialogue between us and a political will to overcome the problems.
And it is with this intention in mind that I would like to conclude my intervention and to thank you for your kind attention, thanking once more Premier Wen for his friendship, and his strong commitment to strong EU-China relations.