MEPs Call for Increased Level of EU-China Cooperation

With Chinese exports to the European Union showing a growth of 18.7 percent in 2007 and topping €231bn, China has become the EU’s second largest trading partner. Acknowledging that the EU and China are becoming increasingly interdependent, a report adopted by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) noted that EU-China relations call for greater co-operation among EU Member States and with the EU Commission regarding the promotion of trade between the two parties. The report, which received votes of 491 in favor, 76 against and 12 abstentions, addressed a number of topics, some of which have been long-standing unresolved issues.

Some of the long-standing issues include China’s protectionist practices, the undervaluing of China’s currency, the country’s cumbersome bureaucracy, various forms of subsidies and the lack of enforcement of anti-counterfeiting measures, all of which have the effect of limiting full market access for a number of EU companies. The report calls on the EU Commission to push for the removal of current export restrictions relating to bilateral negotiations with China. Additionally, China is urged to join the Government Procurement Agreement thereby allowing access to its public procurement markets based on principles promoting transparency and non-discrimination.

In light of the current global economic down-turn, the MEPs report brings out that Europe should not respond to the growth of EU-China relations by putting up protectionist barriers, but should rather embrace the development of trade relations, along with the development of a political dialogue that is genuine, effective and fruitful. Also mentioned in the report is the trade-related technical assistance the Commission provides to China to aid the country in meeting its commitments relating to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Matters of serious concern mentioned in the report include the high levels of pollution caused by industries in China, along with its rapidly increasing consumption of natural resources. Taking into account that a high volume of industrial production in China is either owned by European firms, or is fulfilling orders from firms and retailers in Europe, the report calls for an increase in cooperation between the EU and China with regard to the promotion of low-carbon technology, appealing to European firms operating in China to set the example. EU-China cooperation is also being called for on establishing environment-friendly standards for motor vehicles, shipping and aviation.

The MEPs have welcomed the recent reestablishing of cordial relations between China and Taiwan, the latter being the EU’s fourth largest Asian trading partner. They have also welcomed the high level of cooperation between European and Chinese universities that is resulting in a sharing of knowledge between scientists, researchers and students, which is sure to be beneficial to all parties.