President and CEO of the Atlantic Council Frederick Kempe, believes that it is critical for the EU and the US to have a common stance on China, although it does not appear to exist at the moment, Kempe told the World News Monitor (WNM) in an interview.
While Italy is about to become the first major EU member state to sign a bilateral agreement on cooperation with the second biggest economy within the framework of the "Belt and Road Initiative" (BRI), Kempe acknowledged that it would be a mistake if EU members went ahead with bilateral deals with China.
"Although it may sound a little utopian, a common transatlantic strategy in dealing with China would be in the best interest of both the US and the EU", Kempe stressed.
Kempe earlier also expressed certainty that a coordination of efforts inside Europe would make it a more powerful negotiator:
"Greater coordination inside Europe and across the Atlantic could bring considerably more leverage to the negotiating table. The combined EU-US GDP in 2017 of more than $36 trillion was nearly triple that of China, and even the EU GDP alone of more than $17.3 trillion eclipses the $12.2 trillion of Beijing”, Kempe recently wrote in his weekly column, going on to speculate:
“Instead, China comes to the table with the full weight of six times more GDP than that of Italy, which next week could become the first G-7 member state to endorse China’s Belt and Road Initiative".
Yet, as Kempe sees it, the US administration itself is not unanimous and not in the least coherent about the approach they have yet to work out with regard to China: whereas President Trump adheres to an exclusively transaction-oriented line, prioritising sales of as many US goods as possible to China, others in the White House seem to be aiming at persuading China to stick to “the international rules of the game”, Kempe remarked.
However, Trump’s transaction-focused approach is said to pose some risk to the EU, as there are signs today that the US and China could successfully strike a trade deal at the expense of the EU, according to Wolfgang Eder, CEO of the Voestalpine AG, an Austria-based global steel and technology conglomerate, as cited by the WNM. The top manager stressed that it is clear that the BRI in Europe boils down to "a program for the sale of Chinese goods in the EU".
In the aforementioned interview, Kempe pointed to a striking difference in Trump’s policies as compared to his predecessor Obama’s.
"We are dealing with two very different US presidencies with regard to Europe", Kempe said, adding that while Barack Obama had advocated the "stay behind" principle and was not particularly interested in Europe, Trump, on the other hand, is pursuing a robust policy in which he sees the EU as a competitor in global markets.
Kempe went on to comment that Trump is unlikely to give up his stance on Europe, but instead, clearly prioritises “a big deal” with China, despite the challenges that the two top economies have met up with in their bilateral ties.
Along with the recent Huawei scandal, whereby the US has doubled down on its tries to push the Chinese telecom mammoth from the market and halt its grand 5G aspirations in the western hemisphere, there have been quite a few trade controversies. Against the backdrop of a trade war that has been waged since Trump announced boosted duties on Chinese goods in June, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to go ahead with a 3-month truce to allow room for a new trade agreement back in December, with the truce being further prolonged.