It also proved possible “to address issues that are difficult, and where we are not of the same opinion from the outset, such as Hong Kong, the way we deal with minorities, and human rights,” reported Chancellor Merkel on Monday, following a videoconference between the European Union and China.

Dialogue in the field of climate action

One central issue discussed at the virtual meeting was climate action. In preparation for the Glasgow Climate Change Conference at the end of 2020, “a high-level dialogue is to be put in place between China and the European Union, one that is systematic rather than ad hoc,” said Chancellor Merkel.

In particular, there is an interest in initiating a dialogue that will look at whether China too could change its climate objectives “in order to achieve climate neutrality more swiftly”. Chancellor Merkel reported that they had also discussed the matter of shifting to different, more climate-friendly forms of energy with President Xi. The EU has a particular interest in the emissions trading system that China is currently developing. For the EU, which already has a system of this sort, this is “a very interesting opportunity to cooperate.”

Investment agreement – the goal is 2020

Commenting on the investment agreement, and the aim of getting it over the line by the end of 2020, Chancellor Merkel said that the meeting had produced additional “political impetus” to finalise the negotiations. “It is possible.” Both sides, she said, voiced a clear political will.

European Commission President von der Leyen stressed that it is not about the EU and China meeting halfway on the issue of market access. Rather, existing asymmetry must be rectified. For this, the Chinese position still needs to move, she said.

Agreement to protect geographical indications signed

Before the summit, the EU and China signed an agreement to protect 100 European and 100 Chinese geographical indications, including European products like Munich beer, champagne and feta. The agreement is expected to come into effect at the start of 2021.

Next EU-China summit meeting in Brussels

Originally, a meeting in Germany with all 27 heads of EU member states and EU leaders in attendance was planned for September. The COVID-19 pandemic meant that it had to be cancelled, but the summit meeting is still to be staged as soon as circumstances allow. However, it will certainly not be possible to hold the meeting with the full complement of participants before the end of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, said Chancellor Merkel. European Council President Michel has already invited President Xi to Brussels for the meeting.

Although it was not possible to hold the meeting with all EU member states, European Council President Michel and Chancellor Merkel had worked with all 27 states in advance to identify a joint EU stance vis-à-vis China. The Chancellor saw this as a way of ensuring “that in the future we can have a more joined-up foreign policy for strategic partnerships than has perhaps been the case in the past”.