Chronic. We are not unemployed in Brussels at the end of the year. No sooner had the titanic anti-Covid-19 recovery plan been released, on December 11, after a few cold sweats, than the fever of the last pitch seized the Brexit negotiators. Barely had Michel Barnier had time to admire his laurels at the foot of the Christmas tree that a new suspense kept the ambassadors of the Twenty-Seven in suspense to the European Union (EU) and, from a distance , their governments: the comprehensive agreement on investments between China and the EU that should, all business be concluded, before December 31.
A sign of the changes undergone by geostrategic balances, each of these issues has historical significance. The stake of the Sino-European agreement, which the experts call by its English acronym, CAI (Comprehensive Agreement on Investments), goes well beyond the commercial relations between China and the European bloc. It enshrines the emergence of a European sovereignty which uses trade negotiations – competence of the Brussels Commission – as a foreign policy instrument to impose its environmental and social standards.
Another issue of this agreement: it is part of the triangle formed by the three major poles of current economic power – China, the United States and the EU. Because if Washington, which already has its own agreement with China, is not formally party to the negotiations on the CAI, its shadow hangs in the background on the motivation of each other. We have entered the post-Trump era, and these four years of American unilateralism weigh heavily on the protagonists.
What is it really about? When talks began between Beijing and Brussels in 2014 to establish a common regulatory framework for mutual investments, the global context was quite different. President for a year, Xi Jinping has not yet asserted himself as the life autocrat he is today, controlling Hong Kong and Xinjiang with an iron fist. Barack Obama’s United States did not yet foreshadow the “America first” of his successor; and the Europe of the Twenty-Eight had not realized the power that unity, solidarity and a single market of 500 million inhabitants could give it.
European “end of naivety”
The rise of China, the challenge of the Trump presidency, the ordeal of Brexit and then that of the pandemic have fostered this awareness and the “End of naivety” European. China knows that even with Joe Biden in place of Donald Trump in the White House, the clash with Washington will continue. She also knows that the US-EU relationship, on the other hand, will heat up; unlike his predecessor, President-elect Biden wants to cooperate with the Europeans against Beijing.
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