Trade, investment, social security and solidarity – the focal points of the 16th EU-China Civil Society Round Table

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"Civil society's contribution enriches the multi-faceted partnership between the European Union and the People's Republic of China, and results in better international relations," agreed the EESC president Luca Jahier and the vice-president of the Chinese Economic and Social Council, Yang Chongui, during the 16th Round Table meeting between their institutions. A joint statement released by the two counterparts following the 16th EU-China Round table meeting, which took place on 28-29 May in Varna, Bulgaria, summarises the main conclusions and recommendations of the meeting.

"The EU-China Round Table has firmly established itself as one of the key bilateral events between the EU and China, which reflects the overall positive state and stability of those relations," said the EESC president Luca Jahier, adding that as major economic, political and strategic partners, the EU and China must continue to work together on an ever increasing number of issues.

The 16th Round Table meeting focused on issues related to social security and social solidarity mechanisms, and to trade and investment relations between the EU and China.

“The key messages from this 16th meeting of the EU-China Round Table will be transmitted to the next EU-China Summit. The EESC is strongly committed to sharing the messages of organised civil society and the conclusions from this meeting with all relevant stakeholders, in Bulgaria, the EU and beyond, in order to make sure the voice of civil society is heard," underlined Dilyana Slavova, the President of the Section for External Relations of the European Economic and Social Committee.

Social security and social solidarity mechanisms

The EU-China Round Table acknowledged that economic globalisation was entailing a quantitative and qualitative increase in trade, which was resulting in increased migratory flows. It was emphasised that these migration flows mostly concern skilled workers, who move to China, or vice versa to the EU, only on a temporary basis.

The Round Table identified the need to work towards international and multilateral coordination of social security systems, and stressed that until such international coordination between China and the EU is a reality, bi- or multilateral agreements or instruments should ensure sufficient social protection for workers, and in particular avoid fragmentary, partial approaches.

Trade and investment relations between the EU and China

Both parties acknowledged that upholding and defending an open, multilateral and rules-based international trading system while staving off protectionism and nationalist tendencies is a joint responsibility. Both sides recognised the need for a bilateral investment agreement between the EU and China. With regard to a future EU-level FDI screening mechanism, the two parties stressed that the Union's openness to foreign direct investment should not and must not change, as its openness to foreign investment remains a key principle for the EU and a major source of growth, jobs and innovation, whilst recognising the strength of existing concerns about the need to protect key technologies and other legitimate critical, strategic, security and public order interests. At the same time, they noted that investment rights should be reciprocal and investors should be subject to equal treatment wherever they invest, making sure everyone plays by the same rules.  

Finally, with regard to the Belt & Road initiative, the EESC and CESC call upon authorities on both sides to ensure all joint initiatives and projects are fiscally and environmentally sustainable, and thus, contribute to the achievement of the SDGs.

EU-China Year of Tourism 2018

Back-to-back with the Round Table, a tripartite meeting on the EU-China Tourism Year 2018 was held jointly with the Ministry of Tourism of Bulgaria and the Bulgarian Economic and Social Council. The year aims to promote lesser-known destinations, provide opportunities to increase economic cooperation, and improve EU-China visa facilitation and air connectivity.

"I am proud that Varna hosts this gathering as one of the initiatives of EU in its relationship with China. It will allow for Varna to be a focus for the EU-China Year of Tourism 2018, and will provide opportunities to further developing our relations and utilise our economic potential," said the mayor of Varna, Ivan Portnih, who opened the seminar. While EU destinations remain at the top of Chinese travellers’ wish lists, the Chinese market represents only 2% of total international arrivals recorded in the EU.

Background: The EU-China Civil Society Round Table was established in 2007 following a decision taken by the 9th EU-China Summit in Helsinki. The delegations from the EESC and its Chinese counterpart, the Chinese Economic and Social Council, meet regularly to discuss topics relating to economic and social issues relevant to both parties. By drawing up reports, discussing them and exchanging ideas, the representatives of the EESC and the Chinese Economic and Social Council contribute to the development of the overall EU-China relationship, from a civil society perspective.