by Dr. Sebastien Goulard

Despite earlier tensions, and the suspension of the ratification process of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), China and the two largest European economies, Germany and France, are committed to dialogue. On 5th July, Chinese President, Xi Jinping, held a virtual meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. This trilateral format is not new. In late December, the three leaders plus the European Council President, Charles Michel and European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, approved the EU-China CAI. Subsequently, in April, the three leaders agreed to cooperate to tackle climate change. This time, they talked about several issues including multilateralism, the Iran nuclear deal and Africa.

Defending multilateralism

The leaders of China, Germany and France enjoyed fruitful discussions regarding the preparation of major upcoming events, including the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15), that will take place in Kunming in October 2021, the Glasgow COP26 and the G20 Rome Summit in 2021. Both Europe and China defend multilateralism and believe that together they can promote greener solutions. The European parties congratulated China for having signed the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol (ratification will be effective in September) to reduce the use of HFC refrigerants.

Reviving the Iran nuclear deal

Beijing, Berlin and Paris are calling for countries to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, to establish stability in the Middle East.

China, Germany and France agreed that global issues need to be addressed within the framework of the United Nations.

Cooperation in Africa

The three countries agreed on developing cooperation in Africa. Debt relief as well as potential vaccine production were discussed.   

Xi Jinping invited France and Germany to join the “Partnership for Africa’s Development”, a new initiative launched by China and certain African countries, aimed at supporting post-pandemic recovery, revitalizing the African continent and making progress towards Agenda 2063, so as to transform Africa into a major economic powerhouse. China and Europe are acutely aware that Africa offers many opportunities, but also faces many challenges regarding sustainable development. The French president praised China for its engagement in education in Africa.

Africa may become the place where China and Europe cooperate on the development of the “Belt and Road Initiative” or other connectivity programme.  

Improving EU-China relations

Xi Jinping affirmed that China was ready for the 23rd China-EU leaders’ meeting, which will enable the two regions to increase trade and investment.

We note that there is a consensus among the three countries to increase cooperation despite the differences between the nations. Both Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron are very supportive of  the CAI and appreciate the work carried out by China to fight the current pandemic.

However, this trilateral format may have certain flaws and other European countries, including some of China’s main trade partners, such as the Netherlands, may feel excluded. There is a demand from EU members to have a more inclusive approach to China. This was illustrated by the recent rejection by European leaders of the Franco-German proposal to hold a summit with Russia, as France and Germany do not represent the EU. For China (and other partners), the EU needs to speak with one voice. President Macron and Chancellor Merkel support the CAI, however, they will need to convince their EU partners to do the same, if relations between Europe and China are to be improved.  

French-Chinese-German video summit, July 2021
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