A New Europe Has Its Own Agenda With China
Chris Patten was the last British governor of Hong
Kong and is now the European Union's commissioner for external affairs.
Brussels-The importance of the US-China relationship does not negate
that of Europe-China relations. Nor must the European Union view its relations
with China through a trans-Atlantic prism.
As Europe and China change rapidly, we must take a fresh look at our shared
concerns. New areas such as illegal immigration, food hygiene and genetically
modified organisms have risen up the agenda. China is the world's second
largest consumer of energy and the third largest producer, so its energy
policy has global impact, not least on air quality and climate change.
These issues, and others such as the information society, now complement
the traditional development and trade themes that have formed the core
of Europe's approach since we established relations in 1975. If the EU
is to be successful in making the multilateral system effective, we need
to cooperate particularly closely with the major players and encourage
their international engagement, including in the United Nations. We won't
make progress on transnational issues such as disarmament, nonproliferation,
drug trafficking and environmental degradation without Chinese and US
On regional issues, too, our political dialogue with China is expanding
and can go further. For example, the EU and China can work together, along
with the US, Japan and South Korea, in support of reconciliation between
the two Koreas. The mission to Pyongyang led by the Swedish prime minister
was conducted with that in mind.
And the problems of Burma, as a major producer of amphetamines and heroin
and a potential source of instability, should concern us both.
There are, naturally, plenty of areas where our approaches will differ.
But the relationship is now mature enough for us to discuss them frankly.
That is the basis for the EU-China human rights dialogue that we have
pursued since 1996.
Just discussing human rights is not enough, of course. Results matter
more. I signed a (e)14.7 million program on village governance during
a visit to China in late May. This is an area where China has committed
itself to reform and where some progress has been made on the ground,
which the EU is keen to support.
But there remain many issues of profound concern to us, such as treatment
of political dissidents and religious groups, and the fact that China
makes more use of the death penalty than any other country. The human
rights agenda is an international one, and not just an EU fixation. Positive
developments in human rights and the rule of law will help China's integration
into the international community and the world economy, and underpin its
growth, development and stability. Accession to the World Trade Organization
will have a significant effect. The EU settled its terms for Chinese membership
a year ago, and we hope to see early accession. China is now the world's
seventh largest trading nation. Its total foreign trade grew by more than
30 percent in 2000.
EU-China trade has already increased more than twenty-fold since China
began its open-door policy in 1978. Last year the EU was the largest foreign
direct investor in China.
Meanwhile, the EU trade deficit with China increased by 47 percent last
year, reaching (e)44.4 billion, an eyebrow-raising level. I hope that
WTO accession will help to bring this down by opening up the Chinese economy
and providing additional opportunities for EU companies to do business.
The EU is a staunch supporter of China's economic reform process and is
using its technical assistance to back this up. For a country as big as
China, our development assistance-perhaps some (e)250 million over the
next five years-will inevitably be only a drop in the ocean compared with
China's needs. But we will increase its impact if we target it better.
In the future we will concentrate on three main areas: support to the
economic and social reform process (including WTO accession), promotion
of sustainable development and encouragement of good governance and the
rule of law.
These reforms are not easy. They bring with them a number of social problems,
such as regional income disparities, dislocation and a pressing need for
social security reform.
The problems that China faces are unprecedented in scale, but the EU has
experienced similar challenges. We have to address the problems of our
outermost regions, the need for social and economic cohesion and the modernization
of our pension systems. Through sharing this experience, and our cooperation
programs, we hope to ease the transition in China.
A fresh look at the EU's China strategy comes at a good time. I believe
that China has now recognized that changes in Europe make the EU a more
important partner in the future. As of next January, bundles of euro coins
will be emptied into cash registers in 12 EU member states. A genuine
common foreign and security policy is emerging more rapidly than anyone
expected five years ago. The next enlargement will once again alter the
European landscape, increasing the EU area by 34 percent and its population
by 105 million, to 481 million. That means a bigger market for Chinese
products and a bigger source of investment. That can only be good news
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