Over the last 15 years, Africa has been the focus of growing attention from China, which has firmly established itself as the continent's third trading and economic partner. While Europe remains Africa's leading economic partner, it has lost ground in terms of the relative weight of its relations with the continent.
The EESC warmly welcomes the Commission's proposal to launch trilateral dialogue and cooperation between the European Union, China and Africa. It particularly appreciates the pragmatic and progressive approach, and the pertinence of the four specific sectors proposed: peace and security, infrastructure, exploitation of natural resources and the environment, and agriculture and food security.
Trilateral cooperation, however, can only be meaningful if it is both effective and based on parity. Parity-based dialogue and cooperation must also give each side the freedom to put even the most controversial items on the agenda, for example, democratic governance, human rights and the role of civil society.
The EESC points in particular to the crucial importance of involving all non-state actors in trilateral dialogue.
There is also a need for the European Union to make a greater commitment to ensuring that its own actions are coherent, with a more assertive long-term geostrategic approach giving new vigour to the EU-Africa strategy adopted in Lisbon, and to increase funding.
African governments and the African Union (AU) should pay greater attention to the long-term benefits that their countries could derive from a partnership with Europe and China, giving less prominence to the immediate advantages for local leaders.
China should be urged to make a growing commitment to ensuring that the fruits of trilateral cooperation, as well as of the bilateral cooperation it conducts with individual African countries, benefit local societies and peoples as a whole, and not only their governments.
Trilateral cooperation between the EU, China and Africa could also be extended to the United States, with a view to a more complete, efficient and parity-based partnership.