Blocking EU-China deal due to US would be “terrible sign” – PM

  • Lusa
  • 4 January 2021

The Portuguese Prime Minister explains that "it would be a terrible sign" for the EU to block the investment agreement with China because of the United States.

António Costa believes that “it would be a terrible sign” for the European Union to block the investment agreement with China, concluded a few days ago, to coordinate with the United States because Europe must be an autonomous global actor.

In an interview with Lusa on the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) in this first half of 2021, the prime minister also said that this is “the perfect time” for an EU-Africa Summit. There are “all the conditions” for the EU-India Summit that “could be a milestone in the European Union’s future relationship with the Indian Union.”

The EU and China reached an agreement in principle on investment on Wednesday, which has been under negotiation for seven years. This deal could cause tension with the new US administration weeks after Joe Biden proposed a transatlantic dialogue on “the strategic challenge posed by China’s growing international assertiveness.”

“It’s a process that was underway, it would also be a terrible signal for us to block this negotiation or to condition this negotiation according to others,” Costa said in response to a question about whether we should have coordinated this negotiation with the new US administration.

“If Europe wants to be a global actor, as it has to be, its strategic autonomy depends on being able to speak with each of the other global actors. It must relate to the United States, China, Australia and New Zealand, India, Africa. It has to relate to everyone and not just talk through others,” he told Lusa.

According to the prime minister, the agreement between Brussels and Beijing “guarantees reciprocal security of market opening” and “investment relations which ensure and respect all security rules on both sides.”

Costa said Portugal has “every interest” in a “new climate in the relationship with the United States”. They are the European Union’s most important ally apart from the United Kingdom,” and he pointed out “positive and encouraging signs”, such as Biden’s intention to return to the Paris Agreement and “his multilateral vision.”

“Apart from that, we also know that the difficulties have not disappeared forever either. From a trade point of view, there will certainly be difficulties, from the point of view of defence burden sharing, now what I am sure is that the atmosphere will clearly change, the way we relate will change radically, and this will create better conditions for us to overcome the differences that exist,” he said.

As for Africa, which will be central to the Portuguese presidency’s external agenda, the prime minister hoped that the evolution of the pandemic, which prevented holding an EU-African Union summit in 2020, would be possible “in the spring.”

“We have already told the President of the [European] Council, Charles Michel, that we have every interest and willingness […] for this summit to take place during our presidency, in Brussels of course, and we are working on that. I hope the pandemic will allow this,” he said, pointing out that “other avenues”, such as “meetings with the different regional organisations of the African continent, are not possible.”

“But I think it would be important, at a time when the African Union has signed a continental free trade agreement. This would have been a fantastic time for a meeting of the European Union and Africa.”

“The great strategic partnership that Europe has to establish is with the African continent, so I think it would be a mistake for Europe not to make holding this summit as the top of its priorities,” he stressed.

On the EU-India Summit, scheduled for May 8 in Porto, Costa said there was a formal EU-India meeting in 2020, for the first time in four years, in which New Delhi presented “a very ambitious agenda”, “an excellent indication of India’s willingness to move forward in this relationship.”

“I think we have the right conditions for this EU-India Summit in 2021 to be a milestone in the European Union’s future relationship with the Indian Union,” he said, stressing that “India is an obvious partner for Europe.”

There is a ‘dossier of the new Pact on Migration and Asylum on this external level, but the Prime Minister doesn’t believe will be a final agreement.

“The Migration package is a very diverse package that has numerous components. I am sure we will be able to reach a final agreement on some of them, I am hopeful about others, I am sure we will contribute so that we can make progress. But since it is more or less understood that there will only be agreement on everything when everything is agreed, there will probably be no final agreement on anything.”