Big data, the digital revolution and sustainability, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement, were the topics discussed at the 17th EU-China roundtable held from 10 to 12 July 2019 in Shanghai. High-level representatives of the EESC met with their counterparts from the China Economic and Social Council (CESE).
Jacek Krawczyk, president of the EESC Employers' Group, highlighted that the EU and China face similar challenges and opportunities. Digitalisation is high on the European as well as on the Chinese agenda. "With all the challenges and possible difficulties that may arise in the future, digitalisation is a huge opportunity for our economies and, broadly speaking, our societies. In order to face these challenges, we need to cooperate as closely as possible on the basis of fair competition and fair market access", he stated.
A second major issue Mr Krawczyk focused on was European businesses and their commitment to industry 4.0 and AI development. Despite support in the form of political and financial resources allocated by the EU, there are still many conditions to be met in order to provide benefits and progress for societies. The time to act is now and transparency will be key for achieving the desired results.
Another topic of shared interest was sustainability. Jonathan Peel, member of the EESC Employers' Group, summarised the discussion, stating that "the debate on the Paris Agreement and SDGs was also very impressive for the genuineness and depth of the exchange of views. This is a real sign that our EU-China roundtable has come of age".
Mr Krawczyk argued that multilateralism is vital for both Europe and China, as is the high level of economic and political cooperation between China and the EU. In the complex world we operate in, this can help to stabilise the strong foundation of similar approaches in both economies. Mr Peel agreed, stating that a real dialogue has been established over the 12 years the roundtable has been operating and that a common interest in multilateralism and the WTO in particular has been regularly emphasised.
The meetings in China were perceived as being very well organised and prepared for. Fourteen EESC members, including the EESC president Luca Jahier, Dilyana Slavova (president of the Section for External Relations), Stefano Palmieri (president of the Section for Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion) and the 3 EESC group presidents, Jacek Krawczyk, Oliver Röpke and Arno Metzler, attended the mission. They were also joined by Mr Gavrilovs, Mr Peel and Mr Strautmanis from the EESC Employers' Group.