As EU-US relations falter

EU is China’s largest trading partner and China is EU’s second-largest

Azhar Azam December 12, 2019
The writer is a private professional and writes on geopolitical issues and regional conflicts

President Trump’s stubborn “America First” strategy not only mills him to slap tariffs on rival China’s goods, but his invasive economic policy unequivocally targets products of American allies — including Japan, South Korea, Mexico, and the EU.

All of Trump’s contrived measures to drive every other country down to his taxing tariff policy are yet to produce any positive signals in the US economic statistics, which posted a nine-month US trade deficit increase of $24.8 billion or 5.4% as compared to the previous year.

Decreased exports and increased imports are not making Trump soften his hostile approach towards the entire world. Instead, it cajoles him into persisting his bitter US trade unilateralism and protectionism stance that is poised to wipe off $700 billion from the global economy by 2020.

Trump is now mulling over the option of launching a trade investigation against the EU, to justify imposing tariffs on the bloc’s exports to the US. Earlier, he missed the November 14 deadline to follow through his threat of 25% tariffs on European cars and car parts.

The move came after Washington pushed Brussels to cut tariffs on American lobsters and chemicals, but EU trade chief Cecilia Malmström rejected the US mini-deal bid, calling for a reciprocal American action for European exports. The EU is additionally critical of Trump labelling Europe a trade “foe”, resounding that he supports Brexit and is the first American president to openly speak “against a united Europe”.

Trump’s trade war onto the EU and forthright intervention in the alliance’s sovereign affairs are gradually distancing the US from some key Nato allies. The bloc is now seeking out China to work with EU on compatible issues such as climate change, WTO reforms, strengthening international peace and security and promoting sustainable development.

Echoing for a combined effort in the recently concluded 3rd EU-China CEO and Former Senior Officials’ Dialogue in Beijing, the European side also petitioned China for a “comprehensive strategic partnership, advancing economic and trade relations, and promoting innovations”.

In the age of trade unilateralism and protectionism, economic relations between China and EU continue to prosper as bilateral trade increased 3.1% to reach about $580 billion till October 2019. The increased economic collaboration will surely tone down the impacts of the trade war and rebalance the global economy.

The EU is China’s largest trading partner and China is EU’s second-largest. As Beijing poured $318 billion of investments in the EU during the last 10 years, 45% more than the US, both sides are expected to sign a bilateral investment treaty next year.

In view of the EU’s growing desire to reinforce its rapprochement with China, Beijing may extend its willingness to strongly implement the framed EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation that emphasises working together for “peace, prosperity and sustainable development and their commitment to multilateralism”.

Additionally, the EU plans to connect Europe and Asia with Chinese help to improve the economic, social, fiscal, financial and environmental sustainability of Eurasian connectivity and interoperability, which is also a vital part of the Chinese BRI.

While the US is continuing to grill the EU across multiple fronts, China could increase its economic, strategic, political and diplomatic engagements with Europe.

As officials from China, Russia, France, Germany and Britain met in Vienna on December 6, they committed to implement the US-blasted Iran nuclear deal, which has caused the EU-Iran trade to plunge by nearly 75% from January to September.

With its allies, Beijing may utilise multilateral international forums to repel Washington’s crass campaign against the global world while the EU could deepen its economic, political and strategic relations with China.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 12th, 2019.

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