‘Europe is ready’ to team up with Joe Biden on China

Stuart Lau
·3-min read

European officials will soon contact the team of US President-elect Joe Biden to work together on China policies, in early signs that a transatlantic alliance is taking shape to tackle Beijing.

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said on Monday that “we are ready” for a Biden administration to engage the EU on joint action against the challenges posed by Beijing.

The call comes just days after Biden claimed victory in the US presidential election, in which the incumbent, Donald Trump, has refused to concede, citing electoral irregularities.

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“There are many areas where EU-US cooperation has to be very close,” Borrell wrote on his official blog.

“We can ... foresee an interest by the incoming Biden administration for close cooperation on China and the challenges it poses in terms of unfair trade practices, security and other issues where we both have concerns.

“Formulating a coherent and robust China stance is at the top of the agenda in Washington and something on which there is bipartisan agreement.

“We are ready for that and we can expect the EU-US dialogue on China that we launched only last month to continue, with renewed energy, under the next administration,” he wrote, referring to a dialogue he started with the outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Borrell said the EU also hoped to work with Washington on the South China Sea and East China Sea, 5G technology, disinformation issues and artificial intelligence.

He noted the limits Biden might face on foreign policy given the Covid-19 crisis and a Republican-controlled Senate.

“[But] in the coming days and weeks, we as the EU will reach out to the incoming administration to see how we can best work together,” he said.

David O’Sullivan, who was the EU’s ambassador in Washington until last year, said China could be the most important area for the two sides to work on together.

“We must offer the Biden administration a new transatlantic deal,” O’Sullivan wrote in The Irish Times newspaper. “We will, above all, have to agree how we manage the rise of China as a rival, a competitor and a partner, in building the global environment of the 21st century.

“Trump’s approach of confrontation has not worked. Together, the US and the EU, with other like-minded countries, need to craft a much more nuanced response.”

US presidential election: Europe congratulates Biden as China challenge looms

A key Biden adviser on EU affairs said he expected Biden to contact German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also holds the presidency of the Council of the EU until year end.

“It should be Merkel, given how terribly she has been treated under Trump,” the adviser said.

On Monday Merkel delivered a warm congratulatory message to Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, whom Merkel described as an “inspiration”.

Both Borrell and Merkel agreed that Europe needed to take more responsibility to maintain the transatlantic relationship – in part echoing a sentiment of strategic autonomy in the last few years, prompted by Trump’s threat to disengage Europe which he blamed for not spending enough on the military.

When Biden was vice-president under Barack Obama, the US administration’s pivot to Asia was also seen in Europe as a show of some disregard for the transatlantic relationship.

While the EU and China are hoping to clinch a deal on opening up investment market access in China, the EU’s trade chief said on Monday that Beijing had to move further.

“Negotiations are at an advanced stage. Our priority issues continue to be market access, level playing field and sustainable development,” European Commission executive vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis said.

“However, we still need China to move significantly. As I have always said, substance should take priority over speed.”

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