BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Once billed as the diplomatic high point in China-European Union relations, a summit on Monday is likely to show how far the relationship has ebbed, with the main achievement a deal involving Irish whiskey and Pixian bean paste.
Originally due to take place in Leipzig, the summit will be held by video and bring together Chinese President Xi Jinping with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the EU’s chief executive and its chairman, after a tense video call in June.
In contrast to a summit in April 2019, when Xi pledged to open up the Chinese economy to EU companies, the meeting is set to show how wide the differences are on issues ranging from climate to trade, Hong Kong and the coronavirus.
“The ball is deep in the Chinese court when it comes to building a reciprocal trade relationship,” said a senior EU official preparing the meeting, which starts at 1200 GMT on Monday. No final communique is planned, EU officials said.
European attitudes have hardened towards Beijing because of the novel coronavirus, which many scientists believe originated in China, and because of a new security law on Hong Kong that the West says curtails basic rights.
The EU has warned China of consequences over its security law in the former British colony of Hong Kong, although it has avoided economic sanctions. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has described China as a “new empire”, urging the bloc to take a tougher stance on Beijing.
The EU and China will sign a deal to protect European regional food designations in China and Chinese equivalents in the EU.
The pact significantly expands the number of foods protected as “geographical indications” (GIs) and should help boost trade in higher-value goods such as Irish whiskey, feta and China’s Pixian bean paste.
However, efforts to agree an investment pact by the end of the year, which would give European companies greater access to the Chinese market, have stumbled.
The EU also wants China to strive to end its role as a top world polluter and to stop construction of coal-based power stations, also ending financing of them elsewhere. That means China should bring forward its year of peak greenhouse gas emissions to 2025 from 2030, the EU says.