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Address by H.E. Ambassador Yang Yanyi, Head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, at the 7th China-EU Forum

(From Chinese Mission to the European Union)

2017/06/28

27 June, 2017

Dear Shada,
Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It's a pleasure to be back at the China-EU Forum. First of all, many thanks to our host-- Friends of Europe for the outstanding work in putting this event together and for its long-standing commitment, support and contribution to the China-EU strategic partnership.

If my memory serves me right, I last spoke here in 2015, right after the 17th China-EU Summit, a summit held amidst the Greek debt crisis.

Today I am here in the wake of the 19th China-EU Summit, a summit convened against a much more complex global environment.

Restructuring of global industrial, supply and value chains is accelerating and, after six years of disappointing growth, the world economy is gaining momentum, holding out the promise of more jobs, higher incomes, and greater prosperity going forward.

Yet, there is growing discontent over globalization, rising trend of protectionism, doubts about the benefits of economic integration and the multilateral framework under-pinning the world economy.

Under such circumstances, how China and the EU handle their relations and respond to global challenges are quite on the minds of policy makers, business communities and general public alike.

Coming fresh from the Summit, I am heartened to say that China-EU relations are excellent and are growing. There is new momentum. There is new energy. There is new hope and bright prospect to realize the full potential of their Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Both China and the EU are of the view that as the two largest economies and key players in the world, our relationship has never been more important and we have both a great opportunity and a great responsibility to cooperate and work together.

Specifically speaking, there are several areas where the two sides have agreed to focus on.

Firstly, fulfill international obligations and strive to foster an open world economy. To preserve the benefits of openness and address the downsides of globalization, China and the EU, together with the international community, must continue to uphold the rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trade system, act resolutely against protectionism in all its manifestations, and make economic globalization more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all. Given that we all depend on an open, inclusive and fair global trade system to thrive, China hopes that the EU will fulfill its international obligation under Article 15 of China's WTO Accession Protocol and ensure its ongoing amending process of relevant legislation will be consistent with WTO rules.

Secondly, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with a special focus on speeding up negotiations on China-EU Investment Agreement, working for the early launch of a joint feasibility study for a China-EU free trade area, enhancing synergies between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Investment Plan for Europe, promoting connectivity, strengthening cooperation in the digital area, science and technology and innovation, intellectual property, urbanization, energy efficiency and renewable energy, circular economy, environment management and biodiversity protection. To add value to their cooperation, China and the EU will strive to promote cooperation between SMEs and explore cooperation on ocean management. Toward such an end, we will mark this year China-EU Blue Year.

Thirdly, expand people-to-people exchanges and stimulate culture growth. Encouraged by the growing interactions between our peoples, we will reach further beyond government offices and corporate boardrooms to the hearts and minds of our peoples. To facilitate vibrant development of people-to-people exchanges and communication and cooperation in the areas of education, media, youth, gender equality and sport, we will further strengthen our dialogue on migration and mobility and to streamline the procedures of short-stay visa application for all non-diplomatic passport holders from both sides. To better understand and appreciate each other's culture and strengthen friendship and connectivity, China and the EU will hold a successful 2018 China-EU Tourism Year.

Fourthly, uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and work constructively together to meet the new and emerging challenges of the twenty-first century. We will step up coordination to rein in hotspot issues through dialogue and political settlement and contribute to promoting world peace and stability. We will intensify collaboration on implementing the Paris Agreement, Agenda 2030 and other increasing number of issues, global economic governance within the G20, counter-terrorism and non-proliferation. The list is inexhaustible.

Last but not least, resolve differences through constructive dialogue. China and the EU share similar views on many issues, and have worked well together to advance these common interests. Yet, our relationship is not problem-free. Going forward, there will continue to be problems and trade irritants from time to time. Yet, sharing the belief in consultations and consensus building for mutually beneficial results, China stands ready to address differences creatively, constructively and confidently with the EU through the useful dialogue mechanisms, including the latest China-EU Steel Trade Mechanism.

Having said the above, I wish to underline the following points with regard to managing our relationship, since amid the headlines that tend to focus on differences, it is easy to loose sight of the larger picture and mega trends that anchor our relationship.

First, remain committed to promoting development through deepening reform. We know only too well that in a world of constant change, success belongs to those who work hard and are adept at adapting to change. China never has the luxury of not planning for the future and not staying relevant. Painful and daunting as it is, China is pressing ahead with comprehensive reform and restructuring to turn the vision of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development into reality.

Second, set great store by upholding inclusiveness and improving the open economy. Neither China nor the EU believes that their interests are best served by turning inwards and by excluding each other.

China stands fast by remaining open. Not only are we expanding market access but also vigorously promoting free and fair competition and ensure that there is a level playing field for all companies, Chinese or foreign. That we are engaged in the negotiation of a China-EU Investment Agreement is precisely aiming at fostering a more open, equitable, transparent and predictable business environment and ensure greater market access to each other.

And given that our two economies are highly interdependent, China is committed to fostering together with the EU greater sense of inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness and cooperation rather than confrontation.

Third, stand for win-win and reject zero-sum approach. We are following with interest the debate across Europe on its future and on harnessing globalization. Like many others, we are concerned about the impact of the challenges faced by the EU on willingness to integrate and cooperate. The sense of malaise and tendency of turning negative on globalization is troubling.

China's approach towards economic globalization was eloquently articulated by President Xi Jinping in his keynote speech in Davos early this year. Like it or not, globalization is the big ocean one cannot escape from. The right option should be acting pro-actively and managing economic globalization as appropriate.

While striving to compete on our own merits and strengths, we will also enhance coordination and collaboration with the EU and other countries to address the imbalances, disparities and inequalities both within and between nations and cushion the negative impact of globalization and ensure that every nation strive to achieve its own potential through access to opportunities.

Just like rising tide lifts all boats, we should all endeavor to broaden and deepen our cooperation so as to make the cake of mutual benefits bigger and tastier.

Fourth, put things in perspective and not miss the woods for the trees. As I said before, China and the EU do have differences. We have to be frank and direct in addressing them in a constructive and pragmatic manner. Yet, at the same time we should not allow ourselves to go astray and be confused and misled by reductive reasoning and the rhetoric of putting up barriers and going to trade war against each other.

Instead, we should always keep in sight our broad objective of prosperity and the shared perspective of cooperation. It must be recognized that never before have our common interest and concerted efforts created such tremendous business opportunities, growth opportunities and job opportunities for each other. Looking into the future, our closer and growing cooperation in areas where we can work together will enable us to handle and manage the areas where we differ.

Fifth, continue to build trust and confidence. A critical element of China-EU partnership is a strong foundation of mutual trust.

To cement this foundation, there should be genuine effort to communicate in an objective and comprehensive manner. Selective and biased information on business environment in China, for instance, is not helpful to enable the market to get the right perception and necessary confidence. And it will prevent both sides to tap the full potential of their cooperation.

High level mutual trust also calls for rational expectations and realistic perspectives. As Premier Li Keqiang said during the 12th China-EU Business Summit, "China and Europe differ in levels of economic development and industrial structures, their priorities, extent and speed of opening-up may vary as well. It would be inadvisable to make simplistic comparison in the areas and levels of openness or go after one-for-one reciprocity in openness. What is important is to see whether the gains from mutual openness are generally balanced."

A key imperative of mutual trust is also dependent upon strengthening of mutual understanding and cooperation between our business communities and intellectuals. I am therefore very encouraged about the eagerness of both sides to engage in events like today's. I hope that both our enterprises and think-tanks will continue to communicate with each other, help each other and empower each other to fuel each other's development and progress far into the future.

In conclusion, ours is not a new journey, nor a new beginning. But the China-EU Summit offered a new promise of a great future for China-EU Comprehensive Strategic Partnership featuring the promotion of peace, growth, reform and civilization.

At the time when countries around the world are faced up to some very hard truths and have to take difficult decisions, China and the EU are steadfast and persistent in choosing the right options. We do not complain about ourselves, blame others, lose confidence or run away from responsibilities. We are joining hands and rising to the challenges. And we will counter international uncertainties with our sound and stable relationship and our consistent commitment to world peace, prosperity and progress.

With that, I wish you fruitful and successful deliberations for the rest of the Forum.

Thank you.

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