Mister Prime Minister, Dear Emma,
I do not know how to apologise, but I had to do what I had to do this morning because we are trying to resolve what we call the Greek crisis in Europe and I had to spend some hours on that. I would have preferred to be together with the Prime Minister this morning to address the EU-China Business Summit, but it was not possible. So, on my knees, I am apologising to you, but before apologising to you, I am apologising to the Chinese Prime Minister. I wanted to see him as early as possible because I am a great admirer of China. My first official visit in my former capacity as Luxembourgish Prime Minister to China was in 1996 and I went back to the country five, six, or seven times – I do not even remember, but the Chinese secret services must remember how often I was in China. If the Chinese do not know, ask the Americans, because they do know it exactly; because I was always admiring the performances of this great nation, of the leaders of that nation and although from time to time we have divergences on views, mainly as far as human rights are concerned, I was always strongly believing in the capacity of the Chinese nation and of the Chinese leadership to engage with us on common avenues. So I am happy to meet the Chinese Prime Minister in my new capacity after having met the Chinese President back in November – if I remember it correctly- in the margin of the G20 meeting in Brisbane, Australia.
1/ A solid partnership
I do think that we have to build a solid partnership between the People´s Republic and the European Union.
Together we now have one of the world’s biggest trading relationships. We have to do more in order to better interconnect the Chinese and the European Union´s economies.
The Chinese do not know it, the European citizens do not know but our trade volume is €1 billion per day. Last year alone we traded goods worth over €470 billion although the preconditions for having increased trade volumes were worsening.
Over the years, the partnership has grown beyond trade and extends to international security, environmental protection, research and – what is important – academic exchanges.
Our deep relationship means that we are interdependent. Growth and stability in Europe is good news for Chinese exporters and workers, and vice versa. Conversely, as we have learnt too well in the past financial crisis, failure in one major economy has consequences for the entire globe.
This year we mark the 40th anniversary of this solid partnership. Today’s summit is a recognition of the importance of our partnership and also an opportunity to intensify our cooperation.
There is a Chinese proverb that roughly translates as ‘the energy of the new generation inspires the old’. I hope that this is true.
Though neither of us is terribly young, we are the new generation that can now take this cooperation forward, following in our forefathers’ steps, from generation to generation, and breathe new life into our partnership.
2/ Connecting Europe and China
The European Union is a strong and reliable partner for China and our economies are ever more intertwined, to our mutual benefit. There is a great deal we can learn from one another. There is a great deal we can achieve together. We can do, the Europeans and the Chinese, the Chinese and the Europeans, great things together.
Let me say we take note with interest of China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative. It is the kind of strategic thinking from which both Asia, China and Europe could benefit.
We see the project as an open hand, an invitation to connect China and Europe better than ever before. China and the European Union should now bring together know-how, resources and other strengths to make sure we succeed. The ambition of our response should be equal to the scope of the project itself.
A first step is the connectivity platform we will launch today. It will allow us to combine forces – uniting the expertise and strength of our companies to develop high quality infrastructure, create new jobs in Europe, China and Asia, and build bridges between our two continents along the old silk road.
And we must generate opportunities for each other at both ends of those bridges. On the European side, there is the European Fund for Strategic Investment. During the crisis, investment in Europe fell off a cliff. We have lost in investment terms more than 70% by comparison to the pre—crisis year 2007. Even in the strongest European economy, the German private sector was losing 52% in investment terms from 90 to 2012. So we have to correct this. At the heart of our response is the Fund. Europe is back in business; China is welcome to invest.
On the Chinese side there must be a level playing field for European investors. We have already begun working on this.
But you know that our companies continue to tell us that the business atmosphere is deteriorating. That is why it is important to address this. One very important vehicle to do so is to continue our negotiations for a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment. Let’s get this right; it will be a stepping stone to a greater ambition.
In between, we must unleash the potential of the Eurasian continent through better connectivity, by improving the ports, roads, railways cables and pipelines that connect the Eurasian continent.
3/ Our partnership and our values
The steps you are taking to rebalance your economy, to promote more domestic, sustainable and market driven growth will transform your country as it is for the time being. Your reforms will have great repercussions beyond your borders as well.
That is why we welcome the steps you are taking on climate change.
Our cooperation in this area is extremely valuable. We both agree on the need to act. We are working together to reach an agreement later this year in Paris on ambitious, binding international commitments to fight climate change.
In Europe we have learned that being ambitious on climate change pays off: From 1990 to 2013, EU emissions declined 19% while GDP in parallel grew 45%. That’s why tackling global warming should be seen as an economic opportunity. The EU has now pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% from 1990 to 2030.
Your ambition is something which we recognise and respect. China’s commitment to ensuring a peak in its emissions by 2030 at the latest is evidence that we are on the same page. It is an important step and potentially not the last given your impressive potential.
Your commitment to a low-carbon future is testimony that we have a shared understanding that economic development and environmental sustainability go hand in hand.
EU expertise in green technologies can help to ensure that your efforts are a success.
Our cooperation sends important signals.
First, that China and the European Union recognise it is not north against south, rich against poor, one country against another. It is about this generation and its responsibility for the next. It is the next generation who will deal with the consequences. It is we who must take up our duty today.
Second, that we are committed to protecting the world we share. To shaping our common future for the better.
Climate change is one many areas where we will cooperate as friends, not only as partners, as friends. And friends also have to be frank with one another. As you know, the European Union places a very high value on human rights. But I don’t want to lecture China on human rights. That’s the normal way Europeans are behaving. We are lecturing the entire world (unsure here) ; we have to discuss when it comes to these issues.
I think in the course of these evenings talks we can come back to these issue.
So as far as trade and commerce are concerned we have to remove all the barriers which do exist amongst us and I am totally sure that in the course of these evening talks the Prime Minister, President Tusk and myself will be top leaders. Thank you and my apologies once again, on my knees, that I was not able to attend all the meetings which have been planned for today. Blame Greece, not me.