Statement by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Michel and Chancellor Merkel, following the EU-China leaders’ meeting via videoconference

© European Union, 2021, Source: EC - Audiovisual Service, Ursula von der Leyen,© European Union, 2021, Source: EC - Audiovisual Service, Ursula von der Leyen,

Thank you so much.

Indeed, it was a frank and open, and a constructive and intense ‘quadrilogue’ that we had today – I was about to say ‘dialogue’, but this is not the case. So it was a broad spectrum of topics indeed – from human rights to climate, to digital, to trade. And I want to focus on the trade part.

Indeed, as we committed to at the Summit in June, we have stepped up our engagement at the political level over the past weeks, notably in the areas of trade, climate and digital.

And here, I want to start, in the trade agenda, with the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment. Last time, during the last Summit two months ago, I stressed to President Xi that the European Union remains committed to a genuine, result-oriented engagement and progress. We need concrete results. And now, we have agreement amongst negotiators on three important issues:

– First of all, on the disciplines regarding the behaviour of state-owned enterprises;

– Then, on forced technology transfer;

– And on transparency of subsidies. This is an important part, an important step forward.

However, I want to caution that a lot, a lot still remains to be done in other important and difficult chapters of the agreement – particularly in two areas: one is market access and the other one is sustainable development. We expect that the market access barriers in China will be removed, especially for future and emerging digital technologies – they are the core of our economies. It is telecommunication, it is computer sectors, it is health, biotechnology, and the new energy vehicles and transport.

We see that our investors just face too many barriers in these key sectors. And for us, with market access, it is not a question of meeting half-way, but it is a question of  rebalancing the asymmetry and a question of openness of our respective markets.

So we need China to move on these two issues and we need it to move if we are to achieve our shared objective of finalising negotiations this year. So in other words, China has to convince us that it is worth having an investment agreement.

The second topic was and is Chinese overcapacity. It is also a serious issue for us, both in traditional sectors like steel and aluminium, but also in high tech. There are so far, unfortunately, no concrete steps forward. So this needs to change and we addressed it very clearly. Joining the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity and eliminating the state subsidies that contribute to this overcapacity would be necessary steps in this regard. And I have agreed with President Xi to follow-up on this bilaterally.

We also reiterated to President Xi that China had committed to extending to EU businesses the favourable treatment granted to U.S. operators under the U.S.-China trade deal agreed in January. And we expect this commitment to be met.

Now, what the digital is concerned: First of all, the European Union welcomes that China reaffirmed its commitment to a human centric approach to AI and welcomes that work on this will be carried forward in the G20. Here too, we hope to see concrete progress in this context.

We reaffirmed the importance of market access also here for goods and services in the area of telecommunications. The European market is open and European companies must have fair and equal access to the Chinese market in return. We took note of President Xi’s commitment to look into these matters.

At the same time, the European Union will continue to stress the importance of its networks being secure. And in this overall context of all these different topics concerning the digital agenda we have together, I very much welcome that we had the first ever high-level digital dialogue which took place last week. So we agreed with President Xi that we will continue and broaden this dialogue what the scope and the topics are concerned.

Finally, on the WTO-reform: China has repeatedly stated that it is committed to the WTO. That also requires that China negotiates to strengthen existing rules on industrial subsidies in the context of the World Trade Organization’s reform, and in line with the Summit commitment it made in 2019. This was a topic, too.

Last but not least, we had a brief exchange on the coronavirus pandemic, the pandemic we are all facing. We discussed the need to continue to act in global solidarity and cooperation on this matter. It is very important to engage in the global framework, not only to find a vaccine, but also to make it accessible to low and medium income countries. As you know, we have set up a whole global framework to ensure that and we invited China to join this COVAX Facility. It is important also to continue understanding the origins of the pandemic. And therefore, we were very clear that it is very important to give the WHO all the possibilities to lead its investigations on the origin of COVID-19 to be successful.

In sum: a very concrete meeting, with tangible actions discussed.