Conflict of interest difficult to hide at the EU-US summit

(Left to right) European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, US President Joe Biden and European Council President Charles Michel arrive for the EU-US summit on Tuesday at the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels. Photo: AFP

US President Joe Biden attended the EU-US summit on Tuesday as the final highlight of his visit to Europe, which aimed to show a new perspective on transatlantic relations and bring the bloc closer to its anti-China front ahead of its summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Some believe that this tactic by the United States has had an effect, pointing to the G7 summit’s hard stance on China and the NATO statement which designated China as a “systematic challenge” to China. international order.

However, Chinese observers said Tuesday’s summit on more specific areas of development and immediate interests would expose the differences and conflicts between the United States and Europe, demonstrating the fragility of “symbolic solidarity” in values ​​and ideology during the two previous events.

EU-US summit, first of its kind under Biden administration, set to put COVID-19 pandemic, China, trade tariffs, technology regulation, climate change and democracy on top of the agenda of the day, Euronews reported.

Some Western news outlets have presented a rosy atmosphere of the summit, describing it as a chance to rebuild US-European relations. But they also had to admit the existence of conflicts, including existing tariffs on steel and aluminum imposed by the Trump administration and EU countermeasures. Vaccines and the situation in Northern Ireland after Brexit are some of the sticking points of the dialogue, media reported.

Cui Hongjian, director of the European studies department at the Chinese Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the EU-US summit is an occasion where the two try to deal with their differences and come to a common understanding. consensus, solving down-to-earth problems. The EU has concrete demands for the United States and if the United States does not respect them, the bloc will move further away from the United States.

With its recent decision to delay the implementation of digital tax tariffs for up to 180 days and a new agreement on a multi-year aircraft subsidy line between the US and the EU, the Biden administration has went to great lengths to create an atmosphere of collaboration. for a superficial consensus with the EU, also on democracy and human rights, the experts said.

The two sides agreed to extend a truce by keeping punitive tariffs at bay in their 17-year trade dispute over aircraft makers Airbus and Boeing, media reported, citing EU chief Ursula von der Leyen.

Such a consensus is essentially fragile, as measures to minimize bilateral friction would in no way conceal their differences, especially with regard to trade relations with China, Gao Lingyun, trade expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences from Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Instead of fully following in the footsteps of the United States by fanning the theory of the Chinese threat, EU member states, including Germany and France, are striving to balance their relations with the United States and their ties with China, without jeopardizing their economic interests with China, according to Gao.

China’s exports and imports with the EU denominated in US dollars soared 38.7% year-on-year in the first five months, according to Chinese customs data, China’s trade with Germany recorded an increase of 35.7% during the period, while its trade with France recovered. 43.9%.

China and the EU are more complementary in trade, especially considering the immediate availability of road transport compared to maritime transport whose prices have increased and require much more time, trade experts noted.

A total of 2,213 freight trains were shipped between cities in China and Europe between January and February, an increase of 96% year-on-year. The quantity of goods delivered was also significant with 209,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), up 106% year-on-year, according to the latest data from China State Railway Group Co (China Railway).

In another sign that the US and the EU are at odds, French President Emmanuel Macron said after the G7 leaders’ summit on Sunday that the group was not a club hostile to China, the officials said. media.

“China is an economic rival from which we expect full respect for the rules (of international trade),” Macron said.

A statement released after the G7 summit said, however, “With respect to China and competition in the global economy, we will continue to consult on collective approaches to challenge non-market policies and practices that undermine fair functioning.” and transparent to the global economy. economy.”

Seeing Germany and France as a largely positive force to push forward the China-EU investment treaty, which is now in limbo as Brussels prepares to halt ratification efforts amid tit-for-tat sanctions , Gao believes the investment deal is likely to be unfrozen when sanctions and countermeasures are simultaneously lifted.

Germany, known for its advanced manufacturing prowess, and France, for its banking and financial services, will benefit significantly from the massive investment deal if it finally goes into effect.

Chinese Trade Minister Wang Wentao said during his talks with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in an online meeting at the end of May that he hoped France would play a positive role in promoting the signature and entry into force of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) at an early date.

Britain, for its part, is also betting on closer economic ties with Asia-Pacific markets, notably China, to support its economy, especially as Britain and the EU show little sign of defusing a post-Brexit trade dispute, regional affairs observers have said. .

In Gao’s words, Britain is trying to maximize its economic relations with China, which is why it is not taking anti-China measures as significant as what Australia has done – breaking the agreements. of Victoria Belt and Road with China – although London continues to act as a close ally of Washington.

Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for US Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that while the two sides hope to mend the ties, the cracks and mistrust that have emerged from the Trump administration cannot be resolved in one round. Additionally, the costs for different countries to join the US-led rivalry against China are different, and the US cannot and will not make up for its losses, Xin noted.

Solidarity divergence

Ahead of the EU-US summit, Biden also attended the NATO summit on Tuesday and the G7 leaders’ summit which ended on Sunday.

The NATO statement identified China as presenting “systematic challenges” to the international order, citing China’s expansion in its nuclear arsenal, being “opaque” on military modernization and military cooperation with Russia. .

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned that China is “getting closer” in military and technological terms, but stressed that the alliance does not want a new cold war with China.

The claims drew strong reactions and the Chinese Foreign Ministry and its committee to the EU said the Chinese people will never forget the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Tuesday criticized NATO for playing double standards in its attacks. China spends less than the world average and a fifth of NATO members on military spending per capita, Zhao Lijian said.

The Commission said NATO’s claims slandered China’s peaceful development, misjudged the international situation and its own role, and continued the Cold War mentality mixed with group politics.

NATO, born out of an era of ideological confrontation, puts China in a strategic perspective so that it can prove its relevance in today’s world, Cui said.

The alliance wanted to use the U.S.-China rivalry to assert its political dimension beyond traditional military and security dimensions, while the U.S. wanted to arm NATO in its toolbox against China, the U.S. said. expert.

Closed on Sunday, the summit of G7 leaders, with the United States and some European countries at its heart, also played the card of ideology and values ​​by forming a so-called united front to denigrate China in a bid to maintain global governance.

Almost all of the issues that Washington has recently attacked China on have been mentioned in the G7 communiqué, but attitudes have been expressed to varying degrees.

CNN reported that the seven leaders expressed serious differences over how best to approach China during a G7 summit session. The leaders of Germany, Italy and the European Union in particular have opposed a confrontational approach with China.

Michele Geraci, former Under Secretary of State at Italy’s Ministry of Economic Development, told the Global Times that it was difficult for Italy to strengthen economic ties with China on the one hand and reaffirm the alliance with Europe and NATO partners on the other hand.

The two are not really in conflict, the problem is that some people are using the geopolitical alliance as an excuse to hurt the Chinese economy, which will hurt Italian and European businesses and lead to a lose-lose situation, Geraci said. .

Commenting on recent interactions between China, the United States and the EU, Zhao told Tuesday’s press conference that cooperation far exceeds competition and consensus far exceeds differences in China-China relations. EU. We are two major forces in the multipolar world, and China hopes that the EU will strengthen its autonomy, so as not to be hijacked by the United States who wants to use ideology to create an anti-Chinese clique.

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