Blinken and Borrell to Revive China Forum
The United States and European Union are to announce the revival of the U.S.-EU China Dialogue at a meeting today in Brussels between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. The move, first reported by the Financial Times, represents a further step toward the Biden administration’s goal of creating a united response to China’s rise.
The dialogue was first launched by then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Borrell’s invitation back in October as a a forum for U.S. and EU senior officials and experts to “discuss the full range of issues related to China,” but lost steam following Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in November’s U.S. presidential election.
A united front? A joint front on China policy looked unlikely at the end of 2020, when Brussels and Beijing agreed the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, a deal designed to level the playing field for large European firms by granting greater access to the Chinese market. At the time of the agreement, European Commission Ursula von der Leyen called it “an important landmark in our relationship with China.”
That relationship—and the status of the agreement—is now on shakier ground. After the European Union imposed rare sanctions on Monday on Chinese officials involved in human rights abuses against China’s Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, Beijing retaliated strongly, targeting sanctions against several members of the European parliament. Those sanctions now risk derailing the investment deal, as the EU body has yet to ratify it.
Europe’s loss? The Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the second largest grouping in the EU parliament issued a statement on Tuesday making clear that China would have to lift sanctions on European lawmakers before it would consider any talks on the investment deal. “Europe needs to trade with China, but our values and standards go first,” said Inmaculada Rodríguez-Piñero, the lead S&D MEP on the deal.
If the deal collapses, it could be more of blow to Europe’s manufacturers than Beijing. “My feeling is that China doesn’t care if things take place or not—it’s just ticking a box,” Philippe Le Corre, a China expert at the Harvard Kennedy School, told Politico.