The European Union (EU) aims to maintain economic ties with China, one of its largest trade partners, while also safeguarding its interests, according to Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission’s executive vice president. Speaking at the annual Bund Summit in Shanghai, Dombrovskis, who also serves as Brussels’ trade commissioner, acknowledged the “very unbalanced” nature of the EU-China relationship. In 2022, Europe recorded a trade deficit of nearly €400 billion ($427 billion), even as total import-export flows reached a historic high of over €865 billion.
However, Dombrovskis clarified that the EU does not intend to decouple from China, stating that “de-risking is not decoupling.” Instead, he emphasized the need for the bloc to protect itself when its openness is taken advantage of. These remarks come ahead of a crucial meeting with Chinese leaders, including vice-premier He Lifeng, scheduled to take place in Beijing the following week.
Dombrovskis asserted that the EU’s commitment to creating an open market among its member states was one of its founding principles. Additionally, he stated that the EU is dedicated to promoting free and fair global trade, emphasizing the importance of fairness. The commissioner, who was on a four-day visit to China at the time, also highlighted the necessity of minimizing strategic dependencies on select products.
Furthermore, Dombrovskis pledged to strengthen ties with China and address trade issues, while also tackling global challenges. He stressed the importance of maintaining the EU’s “open strategic autonomy” by undertaking proportionate and targeted actions. According to the trade chief, Beijing and Brussels should collaborate on tackling issues such as food security, climate change, and debt distress.
The goal of the EU is to strike a balance between maintaining economic relations with China and safeguarding its own interests. While the trade deficit is a cause for concern, the EU recognizes the value of trade with China and does not intend to sever economic ties entirely. Instead, it seeks to protect itself from abusive practices and minimize dependencies on strategically important products.
In conclusion, the EU will continue its economic engagement with China, recognizing the need to address the imbalances in their trade relationship. Dombrovskis’ visit to China and upcoming discussions with Chinese leaders demonstrate the EU’s commitment to finding common ground and cooperation on various global issues. By safeguarding its interests and promoting fairness in international trade, the EU aims to strengthen its relationship with China while ensuring its own economic well-being and strategic autonomy.