The Bridge Tank at the annual “Chinese Davos” meeting
After a year of pandemic which led to its suspension in 2020, the BOAO Forum renewed its annual conference from April 18 to 21, 2021 in a context fluctuating between resumption of international trade and temptation to withdraw. As such, the “Chinese Davos” plays a decisive role in the international calendar by advocating an open multilateral dialogue, at a time when the Covid19 has lastingly disrupt the international balance and created a series of new challenges while exacerbating those which pre-existed to it.
Since 2018, the chairman of the Bridge Tank Joël RUET has participated to the BOAO Forum, of which the think tank is a partner. As every year, he spoke at a high-level conference alongside international leaders from the political and business worlds, such as Dmytro KULEBA, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jens ESKELUND, vice-president at the Chamber of European trade in China, or LIU Hualong, president of China Poly Group, but also the director general of the WTO, Ngozi OKONJO-IWEALA, or the South Korean Minister of the Environment.
He was one of the three French speakers, embodying the circle of think tanks, while Jean-Pierre RAFFARIN and Henry GISCARD D’ESTAING, respectively represented the political and economic world. This high-level platform of dialogue, eagerly awaited in the context of a return to international discussions, aspires to build a global consensus and promote common and sustainable development. This meeting was an opportunity to discuss the measures takenby the BRI countries to keep the economic and trade volume roughly stable and normal during the COVID-19 pandemic when the global economy plunged, and cross-border trade and investment slowed down. The role of China-Europe Railway Express in stabilizing the global supply chain was also discussed, as well as the role played by e-commerce in renewing and developing international economic cooperation. In the context of an implementation of the New Silk Roads, but also of an Investment Agreement between the EU and China which is debating, the future of Sino-European relations also occupied the space of discussion.
For Joël Ruet, chairman of the Bridge Tank, “the investment of today makes the business of tomorrow”
In his speech, Joël Ruet stressed the need to optimize Eurasian trade, embodied by the rise of the China-EU Railway Express, by emphasizing the role of upstream investment. As such, it calls for a rebalancing of trade, in favor of exports of European technologies and equipment to China. On this point, the Bridge Tank discussed at length the subject of the EU’s competitive advantages to be brought to bear in its trade with China.
He also addressed the energy issue : the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) could play an important role in connecting the two hydrogen champions Asia and Europe. The Bridge Tank has also developed several avenues of cooperation in terms of research that it would be strategic to develop between the two regions.
Joël RUET added that the EU did not intend to tackle the climate issue as one subject among others, but as an issue that conditions and prevails over everyone’s interests, and compared this approach to the Blinken line: dealing separately with technological rivalries and coordination for the climate. Joël Ruet said it remains to be seen whether this separation is audible by the Chinese side.
He also reflected on the place of Africa in the Belt and Road Initiative, suggesting that Africa wants and must find its place there. According to him, investments on the African continent, still too limited to infrastructure, would benefit from further enhancing contact between individuals by focusing on human capital and skills training.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister in favor of an ambitious European cooperation on hydrogen
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry raised the many challenges brought to light by the pandemic. He argues that international trade will play a key role in the global economic recovery, provided cooperation is boosted. To achieve this, and like Ukraine, which is posed as a strategic logistics hub, the regions of the world must enhance their connectivity in order to foster multilateral interactions.
He advocates enhanced European cooperation in the sector of alternative energies such as hydrogen. He therefore calls for coordinated efforts to invest in hydrogen technologies, ensuring that Ukraine intends to play its role as a strategic partner. The Bridge Tank shares with interest the Minister’s enthusiasm for innovative cooperation around hydrogen, as evidenced by these numerous works on the subject.
For Jens Eskelund, Managing Director of Maersk and Vice-President at the European Chamber of Commerce in China, “the business world allows constructive international dialogue beyond politics”
Jens Eskelund spoke about the pre-Investment Agreement between the EU and China, whose ratification has been suspended due to political disputes. For him, this is the dangerous symptom of a phenomenon of politicization of world trade: the political circle meets the business world. However, this situation is untenable in the long term: both parties must be aware of the need to maintain an open dialogue. For him, trade remains the area where constructive and frank links can be maintained regardless of political differences. The business world therefore has a role to play in maintaining contact where diplomatic relations face an impasse.
According to him, and the Bridge Tank totally agrees with him, international cooperation is indeed crucial to meet future challenges such as the climate challenge: on this subject, the EU and China cannot afford to develop technologies in parallel without converging.
LIU Hualong and the importance of working towards a state of trust to rebuild international relations
In a context of tension in diplomatic exchanges, the CEO of Poly Group insisted on a return to a state of trust, a necessary prerequisite for any trade or international investment. According to him, sharing experience and building trust are essential to rebuilding a sustainable post-covid world and stabilizing the global supply chain.
Joël Ruet bounced back from this intervention, emphasizing that constructive relations must be rooted in a state of mutual understanding, fueled by international networks and cultural projects. In fact, for a rapprochement on investment to be made by companies, it is essential to get to know each other, through multicultural initiatives.
The Bridge Tank at the BOAO Forum : to go further
If the Bridge Tank has been a faithful partner of the BOAO Forum since 2018, it is because it works to offer a vision of the world converging with the vision shared at BOAO, in favor of openness and cooperation. The interviews suggested below, given by Joël Ruet to Chinese media, allow us to deepen the meaning of this shared vision.
During an interview with CGTN TV, Joël Ruet proposed avenues for reflection on environmental cooperation between China, the European Union and the United States. He also mentioned the need to strengthen coordination between the G20 and the BRI and addressed the issue of governance of these new Silk Roads to these journalists.