The Trump Administration continues to impose heavy trade tariffs on the European Union and China under the “America First agenda”. This aggressive form of protectionism is causing friction with long time allies, and, ironically, creating possibilities for solidified trade ties between the European Union, Mexico, Canada, and the Republic of China.
Instead of fighting a tit-for-tat Trade War with the US, the European Union and China should look into strengthening their own ties for mutual benefit and inter-connectivity between the two trading blocs. However, for this to work, both the EU and China need to work on regaining each other’s trust — and that will be a challenging process.
Call for Alliances
In the wake of President Trump’s tariffs, senior Chinese officials, including Vice Premier Liu He and State Councilor Wang Yi, have proposed on several occasions to establish an alliance between the two economic giants, Reuters reports.
Chinese state media is quite positive about the possibilities ahead. A commentary posted on China’s official Xinhua news agency last week stated that China and Europe “should resist trade protectionism hand in hand.”
European diplomats are less sure, one being quoted by Reuters as saying “China wants the European Union to stand with Beijing against Washington, to take sides. We won’t do it and we have told them that.” Another diplomat added that they “agree with almost all the complaints the U.S. has against China, it’s just we don’t agree with how the United States is handling it.”
Diplomats are having a hard time believing the motives behind China’s sudden willingness to open up their market for EU trade. Claiming they are using this unrest to establish new dominance amidst the division in the Western trade bloc. Despite having good reasons for this skepticism, Western countries and the EU as a whole should consider at least trying to mend some of these trust issues.
With the pending development of the new Belt and Road initiative, many profitable options for private European companies lie ahead in a wide variety of industries. For all intent and purposes, China’s desire for a more interconnected world seems very real, even despite the fact that many European politicians and economics experts say the Chinese are driven by a desire for dominance. By working with them on the realization of the Belt and Road initiative, companies and governments can carefully test the sincerity of the Chinese government.
Yet, trust goes both ways. The EU has imposed its own tariffs on Chinese companies repeatedly, which in turn also led to tension between the two blocs. The Chinese skepticism should be addressed by European lawmakers as a way to both test and confirm the potential flourishing of relations with China.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has gone on record on several occasions slamming the European Union. Monday, in an interview with Fox News, the President of the United States claimed that “the European Union is possibly as bad as China, only smaller.” With friends like these, who needs enemies? Threatening rhetoric and sanctions are being thrown around like petty change, affecting both US and EU companies, but all that seems to matter to the Trump administration is winning the trade war.
During a visit from Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to the White House on Monday, Trump went on record stating the US and EU “are very close to making some very good trade deals. Fair trade deals.” Adding that whether or not they come to an agreement, the outcome will be positive either way. Prime Minster Rutte was quick to interrupt Trump mid-sentence, saying “No. It’s not positive.”
Even this short press conference between the two nations portrays Trump’s narrow view, taking only his own agenda into account without properly considering the consequences for even more strained relationships between the US and EU.
Instead of fighting fire with fire and imposing more tariffs and countermeasures, let us look into opportunities that will boost our respective economies. We would love to work together with the Chinese government on creating smarter and less polluted cities, improved infrastructures, IoT development and implementation. Stimulate trust by engaging in private-public projects, give cooperation and inter-connectivity a chance.
The lack of trust is holding us all back. Let us try and find a solution through action instead of words. Thanks to projects such as the Belt and Road initiative, we can work towards a more connected world. A better world. Economically, politically and culturally. If the common statements by both European and Chinese governments about harmonizing the world are true, we should act on it and forge strong and lasting relationships, and leave other administrations to stand watching from the sidelines.
Article by Wilhelm Roth, Marketing and Communication Manager at Parksen