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First of all, I would like to thank the Rapporteur, Mr [Bas] Belder, for a very balanced report which accurately reflects the state of EU-China relations and the key issues at stake, and also for your work to find a broad consensus on such a strategic issue for Europe that in the past has been more divisive and I think this is a major achievement.
I am also glad to see that the report echoes the EU Strategy for relations with China that we adopted two years ago, and I am also very satisfied with the work you have been doing with our Delegation in Beijing and with all our teams that are working in China and with China.
The European Union and China are two of the great powers of the world of today. We do not always see eye-to-eye; on the contrary, we have some fundamental disagreements that are very evident. But as two global powers, we both understand that our cooperation is essential to address the main challenges we face.
If we want to preserve the multilateral system, to make it more effective, engagement with China is an absolute must. I have to say, I have seen in these last six, seven months a very strong engagement from the Chinese side, and also from the European side that I have been able to channel, in working more and more in the multilateral framework, in the multilateral system on global issues, in general terms.
In recent years, China has become much more active on the global stage. And China looks at the European Union as a partner on many issues where our interests converge.
Our cooperation is already intense on most foreign policy dossiers: we are working together to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran; we both support the ongoing negotiations towards a reconciled and de-nuclearised Korean peninsula; we both want to see peace in Afghanistan, and we are both actively supporting the Afghan government's efforts to bring forward the peace process.
As you can tell from these examples, China now sees the European Union not just as a huge market and investor, not just as an economic player, which is the traditional view; but also more and more as a global political player and a global security provider.
Our security cooperation is getting stronger in different parts of the world. For instance, we cooperate on the ground in Mali and in Somalia, where we are both present with our security personnel.
We work together in different parts of the world and we work together on global issues, particularly in the UN framework.
This summer, at the EU-China summit, we agreed on a very substantial and ambitious statement on climate change for instance: we have agreed to step up our cooperation to reduce emissions and implement the Paris Agreement.
But even when our starting point is not the same, there is still room for working together and building win-win solutions.
Take investment in Africa as an example. As you know, whenever we Europeans bring new investment in Africa, we always keep in mind the Sustainable Development Goals. We want European investment to create quality jobs, to increase peace and stability, good governance and human rights, and to focus, in particular, on opportunities for women and youth.
Now everybody knows that China is already a major player in Africa, and that our approach is not the same. But if we want to promote sustainable development and sustainable security in Africa, engagement with China is key to achieve results on the ground. Even if we come from different starting viewpoints, we can explore the possibilities of trilateral cooperation among Europe, China and Africa, and find common fields of work that can be beneficial for all.
Another good example is the “One Belt, One Road”. I believe we must not be afraid to engage with China, creating synergies between their initiative and our projects on connectivity. We believe that big infrastructure projects should first of all create opportunities and jobs in all the countries along the new Silk Road, and that these projects should be about sustainable development for local communities, and not about crafting new spheres of influence. Only if we engage together with China, we can make our interests, our goals and our vision on connectivity converge.
Both the European Union and China are part of the world's economic G3, together with the United States. The choice ahead of us is straight-forward. We could choose a conflictual approach, going for trade wars that would hurt everyone. Or we can work together with China to make the global economic system more just and fair.
We have a good deal of disagreements with China when it comes to trade and I believe we have had the chance to discuss them at length not only with me but also with Commissioner [for Trade, Cecilia] Malmström – ranging from the issue of over-capacity to intellectual property.
Our choice is clear. We want to deal with these issues within the framework of a rules-based international system. We want our trade with China to be based on reciprocity, to be free and fair. This is the only way to achieve a solution that benefits both Europe and China: for the win-win solutions and avoiding any scenario of a lose-lose confrontation.
I believe we now share the same approach with China on the need to find or to build cooperative win-win solutions or approaches, rather than entering or fueling conflictual trends that we are seeing.
Dialogue and engagement are the best way forward for us – not just for trade, but on all issues where we disagree with China. I could mention the situation in the South China Sea, restrictions to freedom of expression in Hong Kong, and we regret that the dialogue with Taiwan has been frozen for the last two years.
But of course the most outstanding disagreement we have with China concerns the human rights situation in China, as underlined in your Report.
During the most recent EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, we spoke up against the recent restrictions on freedom of religion, on minorities' rights, and on freedom of association and expression. We raised our opposition against the death penalty – as we always do with all countries that still have death penalty - and discussed the impartiality of the justice system.
We also focused on the situation in Xinjiang, especially the expansion of political re-education camps. And we discussed the detention of human rights defenders, including particular cases.
We know that the Chinese government does not share all our principles and values, and they know that we are in different places on some issues. It is also very clear that we will not sacrifice our values in the name of real-politik. We are always very clear on that.
On the contrary, we will continue to engage with China precisely to advance our values and our interests. Because Europe and China recognise and understand each other's importance in shaping a more cooperative global order. I would say that this is the sentence that, in a nutshell, describes the state of play of our relations with China today. We recognise each other as fundamental key players on the global stage of today's world.
We know that, in this moment in world history, cooperation and engagement are simply the smartest choice, and that on some global – and also on some regional – issues, if the European Union and China work together, this makes the difference in the world.
Your report, Mr [Bas] Belder, rightly points out that China is a complex partner, that our engagement takes different forms on different issues, but we should not be afraid of a more proactive and a more confident China.
They look at Europe as a global power. Our dialogue can help the world move beyond the current chaos, towards a better global order. It is a dialogue based on clarity, on respect, on our interests and values, and it can be one that benefits both Europe, China and also the rest of the world.
I am glad that this is also the spirit of your report. And I am glad that you built such consensus on a crucial issue for the present and the future of our continent.
Thank you very much.