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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Speech by President Barroso: "The EU and China – a crucial partnership"

EU-China Business Summit

Beijing, 14 February 2012

Premier Wen,

President Van Rompuy,

Distinguished business leaders,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Ni Hao,

It is a pleasure to be here with you today in Beijing to discuss the crucial relationship between China and the European Union. We just had a very rich and constructive summit this afternoon, which will pave the way to deepening our partnership on many levels. The vibrant relationship between China and the European Union has blossomed with extraordinary speed over the last 20 years. In 1992, trade between us was almost non-existent. Today, Europe is China's biggest trading partner and the primary destination for Chinese exports. The latest figures that we just saw confirm that trade both ways was equivalent to an amount of more than 460 billion euro in 2011.

This transformed alliance exemplifies the inexorable pace of globalisation over these past decades, and the extent to which we are now interconnected and interdependent. It also proves that we need to forge even closer relations on two levels. On the one hand bilateral relations, which is why our summits are so vital. But also, we must use our partnership as a strong platform to address global challenges such as re-balancing growth and international trade negotiations.

The European Union is a reliable partner for China, and I am pleased to be here at a time when Europe is turning a corner in the resolution of the crisis that has affected us since 2008.

The EU has been acting decisively and has been taking important and far reaching decisions to tackle the question of sovereign debt. At the same time we are also working to strengthen the economic governance in the euro zone, to improve financial supervision and stabilise public finances, to implement the necessary structural reforms and to enhance our competitiveness.

This is the way for Europe to give a contribution to global growth. This is the best contribution Europe can give – fiscal discipline, structural reforms, increase and reinforce economic governance in the euro area and in the European Union, financial stability. And this is exactly what we are doing. We know it is difficult, because these are new challenges, but the reality is that we are making progress.

Throughout this period we appreciate the Chinese messages of support. Our economies are closely intertwined. Indeed “China has a stake in Europe’s recovery”. China has an interest in Europe and the world’s financial stability. And Europe also has a stake in China’s prosperity and also has an interest in Chinese success.

Europe's goal now is to fully implement our strategy for growth – what we call Europe 2020. This agenda is based on a number of very strong fundamentals. These include our Single Market – the biggest single market in the world of half a billion citizens and 23 million Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. It also includes our drive for smart investment – investment in innovation, research, education and developing our transport, energy and digital infrastructure.

Not surprisingly there are many similarities in these goals and the tasks and challenges identified by China in the 12th Five Year Plan. Despite our different starting points, economic positions and political systems the challenges that we are facing are common: sustainable and inclusive development, urbanization and environmentally friendly growth.

This is why Europe’s growth agenda also includes furthering our relationships with crucial partners, such as China.

Our bilateral partnership is already extremely solid and I look forward to continuing our in-depth dialogue, not only about the current economic situation, but also about the fundamental options and challenges we both face in the medium term.

As two of the three largest markets in the world, it is significant that our relationship has continued to grow, even as growth has slowed globally. Together we provide a central pillar to global economic momentum.

We stand united in the view that boosting trade is the most effective way to support global growth. Breaking down barriers can help to increase the flow of goods, services and capital around the world that are vital to restoring confidence in global markets. So we must both act to ensure open markets as a way to increase and spread prosperity.

The success of Europe's trade liberalisation, of our policy of openness towards China has led to a bilateral trading relationship worth almost €400 billion each year. The European Union is China's largest trade partner.

Chinese production is a key part of our companies’ value-chain; bringing new goods at lower prices to Europe. Similarly, China has become the fastest growing market for our exports of goods and services – with a growth rate of 40% in 2010. China is also an important destination for European Union investment, increasingly contributing to the global competitiveness of European firms.

On a global level, China’s WTO membership has been one of the most significant international developments over the last decade. It has marked a new, and ongoing, era of reform in China that we in Europe hope will continue.

China has acted as a driver of growth, a bridge between developing and developed economies, and as a crucial advocate for free trade in the Doha Round Negotiations. China is now much more than an export economy or an emerging economy. Indeed, China is now an essential global force. This trend is good for China and should also be seen as good for the global economy.

I can assure you that Chinese measures to rebalance its economy will be very much appreciated. We are also seeing the important opportunities for investment in both ways.

Europe also offers significant opportunities to Chinese businesses. Indeed, we have seen recently very important investment from China in several countries of Europe.

In short, we need to continue working on a common vision of the challenges we face and of how to address them. On how best to combine regulation and openness; on how to invest in people and infrastructure; and how to ensure green growth. As our levels of prosperity converge and the global economy becomes ever more interdependent, I expect our shared perspectives on these topics to also continue converging.

Looking ahead to how we can further our bilateral relationship, the European Union is convinced that there is still potential for progress. Europe remains committed to a level playing field and removing obstacles to our shared growth. On trade, the EU will maintain its open access regime, and I hope we can resolve the outstanding issues relating to access to the Chinese market. On investment, the flows are well below their potential. Progress in this area will bring major benefits to both sides and boost China's transition to a high tech economy. This will of course require the right legislation, but also the development of relations of trust between EU enterprises and Chinese businesses and government, at both the central and local level.

Let me therefore confirm here today before our two business communities that:

  • the European Union wishes to promote synergies between our growth strategies,

  • to engage on improved market access discussions,

  • to launch the negotiations of a comprehensive and mutually beneficial bilateral investment agreement which can unlock the still untapped potential of investment flows, and

  • to promote innovation whilst protecting intellectual property.

We also look forward to pursuing constructive and continuous engagement on other matters including energy security, subsidies and raw material supply issues. These were important debates for today's summit and beyond.

To close, I would like to recall now that both European Union and China are committed to reform, to achieving new opportunities through policy of openness and to focussing on the future to achieve new forms of sustainable growth.

At this critical juncture balanced economies are wise policy. This applies domestically and globally. This is the way to secure sustainable growth.

As business leaders you are the engine of this growth. Government and regulators must provide the framework and the guidance, but it is through the actions of business that the necessary innovation, investment and jobs emerge.

The relationship between China and the European Union has made major steps forward in just two decades, in historical terms a very short period indeed. But I am confident that this will remain a constant feature of our relationship for the many years to come.

I thank you for your attention.

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