Author: the_bridge_tank

EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment: Stakes for a constructive balance of power

By Philippe Coste, Pierre-Noël Giraud, Stéphane Gompertz, Henri de Grossouvre, Fatima Hadj, Brice Lalonde, François Loos, François Quentin, Joël Ruet, Raphaël Schoentgen, Alex Wang, avec Clarisse Comte et Claire Thomas.

After seven years of negotiations, the European Union and China reached an investment agreement on December 30, 2020. While Beijing sees in it the promotion of a “high degree of openness”, the EU aspires through this treaty to establish the long sought after “equality of market conditions”.

To carry out this project, a balance between the strategic interests of each side and common objectives on which to agree remains to be found… just as it remains to find avenues for concrete action.

Find the analysis note in French :2021-03-Issue-Brief-UE-CHINETélécharger

• This treaty provides for the intensification of economic and trade relations between the EU and China. It guarantees EU investors greater access to China and also helps to create more balanced conditions of competition.

• Areas of collaboration are proposed here, in various fileds : political (place of China in international organizations, global governance), legal (international standards, ESG), industrial (mobility, decarbonisation, role of SMEs), economic, environmental, scientific , technological (energy transition, carbon capture, hydrogen, nuclear, new energies), financial (coordinated introduction of carbon prices) and cultural.

• For the EU, it is above all a matter of asserting its strategic interests in a coordinated manner with the member countries during the ratification process.

The long-term issues of technological sovereignty, of competition between blocs, all possible causes of “stop and go” in bilateral relations must be seriously dealt with.

Despite the identified obstacles, maintaining an open but precise dialogue between the EU and China is essential. The European Union must continue its transformation and ensure respect for its increase in diplomatic power both within the EU and in its relationship with China: beyond state-to-state relations, it is up to the EU in as a community to negotiate the terms of a new bilateral relationship with China. It is in this way that it will confirm its status as a “balancing power”.

The Organization for the Development of the Senegal River Basin (OMVS) will be a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize

On 12th March 2021, in Kayes, Mali, our Board Member Hamed Semega, announced the Senegal River basin organization (OMVS) will run for the Peace Nobel Prize. OMVS, an international organization under Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, today celebrates its 49th anniversary. Heading towards 50, and ahead of the upcoming Word Water Forum, the 4 states realize the OMVS has been a factor of peace, stability and development in the region. Just as IPCC got the Prize on climate change mitigation, we wish the OMVS will get the prize for huge climate adaptation efforts it does on top of peace.

Senegal: The political crisis shaking the country

3 of our Founding Board Members from Senegal were mobilized in the international and national media during the restlessness the country experienced; Aissata Tall-Sall (on Francde 24) Minister of Foreign Affairs, Elhaj Kasse (on TFM) Special Adviser to the President and Mamadou Lamine Diallo ( on TFM), member of the National Assembly and one of the leaders of the democratic opposition.

Elhaj Kasse, Special Advisor to the President on TFM (Télé Futurs Medias) for a special program: how to get out of the crisis?
Mamadou Lamine Diallo, member of the National Assembly interviewed on TFM (Télé Futurs Médias)

Signing of the investment agreement between the EU and China

Ambassador Sylvie Bermann and our chairman Joel Ruet exchanged notes on Chinese TV on the EU-China investment agreement; noting that it not only concludes 7 years of negotiations but also of seeing on both sides the emergence of a different vision of the world. While many issues remain to be finetuned, ambassador Bermann recalled the agreement answers queries made by the EU and follow a European approach on the economy

China “Two Sessions” : the Bridge Tank co-organizes the Think Tank & Media Forum on Global Economic Development

A Forum on Global Economic Development on the occasion of the Two Sessions in Beijing

Together with its Chinese partners, the China International Publishing Group and the China Institute for Innovation & Development Strategy, as well as the Prospective & Innovation Foundation, the Bridge Tank co-organized on March 8 a hybrid Forum on the sidelines of the Two Sessions.

On this occasion, Joël Ruet spoke alongside Wei Jianguo, former vice-minister of Commerce in China and vice-chairman of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, Cai Jiming, deputy at the People’s National Assembly and director of the Central Committee of the China Association for Promoting Democracy, and Zhang Yuyan, member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin, former Prime Minister of France, opened this webinar alongside four Chinese vice-ministers and the deputy speaker of the House of Representative of Argentina. For almost three hours, representatives of more than ten countries, ranging from Russia to India, from Brazil to South Africa, explored new avenues of thoughts, in particular in favor of multilateral cooperation, global economic recovery supported by innovation and reform of global economic governance. The role of international think tanks in building platforms for dialogue was highlighted, and presented as an essential strength in building a community on a humanity scale.

Chinese media articles China Today, China.org, China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy covered this event in particular.

Opening of the Forum by Jean-Pierre Raffarin: against the temptation of isolationism, an international cooperation based on innovation

In his remarks, the former French Prime Minister said that sharing of experiences and mutual understanding were essential to achieve peaceful development, a common goal for all countries. As a global crisis exacerbates the need for a coordinated response to global challenges, he stressed the dangers of a temptation to unilateralism and protectionism. Emphasizing the role of innovation, he argued that each country should actively conduct international cooperation while safeguarding its own sovereignty. He mentioned in particular the fight against climate change, referring to the joint efforts of France and China, a strong signal in favor of a global consensus for green development.

From crisis to opportunity for renewal, according to Chinese speakers Wei Jianguo, Zhang Yuyan and Cai Jiming

Former vice-minister of Commerce Wei Jianguo said China’s “dual circulation”, a pillar of the 14th Five-Year Plan launched at the same time, will bring new opportunities for global economic development. According to him, beyond the crisis it is going through, the world is entering a new era of globalization, where China must play a crucial role.

But experts have set it against a less optimistic scenario, warning of current systemic risks threatening the global economy, such as inflation, the symptoms of which – sharply rising commodity prices – are already visible. Inflation and climate change therefore emerged as two challenges of common interest to be tackled together.

Zhang Yuyan called for renewed international cooperation, which involves working together on the issue of global governance. Indeed, discussions remain to be conducted, and this responsibility falls to the great world powers, which must find the right balance between strategic autonomy and common interests.

Cai Jiming emphasized the importance of building a fair and sustainable world trading system, based on the notion of comparative interest in the international division of labor, firmly opposing isolationist tendencies that threaten the balance of world trade.

China’s commitment in Global Security and Sino-European Cooperation : Joël Ruet’s Intervention

Joël Ruet, chairman of the Bridge Tank, said China must adopt more multilateral ways to clarify its position in the security issue and create a stable external environment. Speakers also agreed on the idea that China should play a role commensurate with its economic weight in global governance.

He referred to the pre-investment Agreement concluded between China and the EU, symbol of the opportunities that can emerge from a crisis, while warning of two priorities that should not be overlooked. Indeed, he targeted two areas where Sino-European cooperation is fundamental : the environment, where the ambitious words of the heads of state must be implemented through acts in the perspective of the COP26, and industrial cooperation, that the European and Chinese industries and businesses see as very promising.

The take of The Bridge Tank on the 2021 Two Sessions – “Dual circulation”, high-quality development, disappointing environmental objectives…

 

The Two Sessions designates the two annual plenary meetings of the National People’s Congress and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. After a year of pandemic which had postponed this meeting in May 2020, the Chinese leaders were keen this year to launch it on March 5, as if to embody the exemplary resilience of the country and the regained normality of the regime’s institutions. Plus, it is marked by the launch of the 14th Five-Year Plan 2021-2025 and the 100 years anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. 

Among the highlights of this event, Prime Minister Li Keqiang has set a growth target of 6% for 2021. This moderate figure shows that the priority will be less focused on an attractive GDP – the IMF is banking on an 8% recovery – than on stable growth in a context of uncertainty, and on three pillars: “reform, innovation, and high quality development”. Also, the budget allocated to research and development will increase by more than 7% per year over the next five years, to achieve breakthroughs in future technologies and allow China to gain strategic autonomy. Another priority of the regime is to upgrade the supply chain and to promote domestic consumption, especially in the automotive and household appliances sector.

In fact, both the Two Sessions and the 14th Five-Year Plan have as a common thread the development paradigm of “dual circulation”. This notion denotes a two-pronged development strategy that requires both internal and external market support to stimulate long-term consumption patterns. The domestic cycle is particularly emphasized while it is complemented by an international cycle, with foreign trade and investments abroad. This objective of betting on the huge Chinese domestic market is rooted in a desire to hedge against external shocks, in the context of rising diplomatic tensions and instability in the world economy.

Li Keqiang also stopped on the environmental issue: he called for the promotion of the greening of lifestyles and production. For example, one of the targets for 2021 is to achieve a rate of 70% for the use of clean energy for heating. The 14th Plan calls for China to reduce its energy consumption per unit of GDP by 13.5% and CO2 emissions by 18%. Yet the experts say that the objectives mentioned do not represent a real acceleration to achieve the carbon neutrality expected in 2060, for lack of concrete means. For example, the Double Assembly as well as the 14th Five-Year Plan introduced the idea of ​​a “cap on CO2 emissions”, without actually setting one. While it is encouraging that a component dealing with climate change is for the first time adopted in a national-level plan, these initial environmental indications are therefore often perceived as ambiguous, even disappointing.

Minister Brice Lalonde and former UN deputy SG discusses ecological transition with the Bridge Tank

Brice Lalonde, who served as French Minister for the Environment, UN Under-Secretary-General for Climate, and Executive Coordinator at Rio+20, detailed the major issues at stake around the ecological transition around which powers must engage in a new cycle of technological cooperation.

Prospects for Sino-European cooperation

The former minister recalled that the electrification of our economies is key for the transition, requiring the deployment and improvement of techniques such as batteries, electrolysers, and more broadly raising the question of large-scale electricity production. Brice Lalonde believes that it is in this context that nuclear energy is most relevant and should be subject to technological exchange. He recalled, by way of example, the previous signing of a France-China agreement on the construction of a nuclear waste reprocessing plant.
The speaker also mentioned several times the prospect of future use of synthetic fuels, which consist in capturing and reusing the carbon dioxide initially emitted as energy. Brice Lalonde thus insisted on the distinction between present and future energy resources, illustrating his point with the example of water, which should become a strategic resource because of the technology of water electrolysis, allowing for the production of hydrogen.
Finally, the former minister addressed the research issues surrounding carbon fixation, in the form of artificial photosynthesis or through the sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2), on which China and the EU must also work together.

Global governance and the future of international trade

On the other hand, and apart from Sino-European relations alone, Brice Lalonde more broadly presented the lack of international cooperation on ecological issues as the main shortcoming preventing the deployment of the ecological transition on a large scale. In his opinion, a paradigm shift is necessary consisting in the establishment of a minimum of global governance on these subjects, in contrast to the current configuration where sovereign climate programmes are simply added together, without any supranational dimension. He believes that we lack major international cooperation agreements, concerning gas for example, where the gas industry should have coordinated to finance the transition of coal-based economies to gas, which emits much less CO2. It therefore seems crucial to him to revitalise multilateralism, in order to carry out projects such as the establishment of a common carbon market on an international scale.

Finally, on the subject of international trade, the former Environment Minister was able to oppose a shared opinion that would like to present it as an outdated practice in a world seeking to achieve carbon neutrality. On the contrary, Brice Lalonde stated that trade can be ecological. “We absolutely need trade. Trade can be a very powerful ally for the environment,” he said. To do so, trade rules should no longer focus solely on finished products, but also on production standards (i.e. regulating production-related greenhouse gas emissions). From this point of view, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) still has its place in the world of tomorrow. The WTO has already accepted the primacy of environmental law in prior cases, when this law is enshrined in international agreements. In the future, states could thus theoretically take advantage of international ecological agreements imposing production standards in order to block imports from countries that violate them.

Lalonde was one of the keynote speakers of the Bridge Tank’s forum on the post-COVID-19 EU-China cooperation. He took part in a panel entitled « Green development or ecological civilisation? », which was moderated by Wen Cui-Pottier, former journalist of the Shangai Media Group. This forum took place in the Brongniart Palace in Paris on the 15th of October 2020.The other speakers of this session were Nicolas Imbert, Executive Director of Green Cross France & Territoires and two members of the Bridge Tank’s board : Guillaume Henry, President of the Association of the Ecological Analysis of Law, and Zhao Wei, researcher at Sun Yatsen’s University.

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