Last reviewed 2 May 2019

The EU and China agreed further to strengthen their strategic partnership at the EU-China Summit on 9 April. Leaders agreed on the direction for EU-China relations in the years to come based on reciprocity. EU President Donald Tusk said: “Negotiations have been difficult but ultimately fruitful”.

Key areas of agreement

EU and Chinese leaders expressed their joint support for multilateralism and rules-based trade and they reaffirmed their joint engagement to reform the World Trade Organization (WTO). Significantly, they agreed to work together to strengthen international rules on industrial subsidies. They also discussed foreign and security issues, co-operation against malicious cyber activities, the deployment of 5G networks, fighting climate change and human rights.

As well as a Joint Summit Statement, both sides reached agreement on:

  • a dialogue in the area of the State aid control regime and the Fair Competition Review System; this dialogue will further the EU’s and China’s mutual interest and joint work to promote fair global competition; the aim is to prevent public policies from distorting and restricting competition while maintaining fair market competition and promoting a unified market; it is part of the Commission’s broader strategy to address the distortion that national subsidies policies put on a global level playing field where companies can compete on their merits

  • the Terms of Reference of the EU-China Competition Policy Dialogue replaces two earlier documents to facilitate requests to investigate alleged anti-competitive behaviour

  • a Joint Statement on the Implementation of the EU-China Cooperation on Energy

  • the Terms of Reference for a Joint Study on sustainable railways-based transport corridors between Europe and China.

A new approach

The European Council in March had discussed a Commission review of relations with China with 10 proposals for action. This review was done against the backdrop of China’s growing economic power and political influence, and the growing appreciation in Europe that the balance of challenges and opportunities China presents has shifted. Europe’s new approach is to be more realistic, assertive and multifaceted.


Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that co-operation simply makes sense for both sides. The EU is China’s largest trading partner and China is the EU’s second largest. Both sides expressed their commitment to the rules-based trading system with the WTO at its core and agreed to reform of the WTO to help it meet its new trade challenges including strengthening international rules on industrial subsidies. President Tusk called this a breakthrough “For the first time, China has agreed to engage with Europe on this key priority for WTO reform.” President Juncker said that real progress had been made but more could be done. “We need to find a better balance and level of reciprocity. Europe wants to trade more and invest more in China but we need rules that allow us to do so,” he said.

Discussions centred on equitable and mutually beneficial co-operation in bilateral trade and investment and both sides reiterated their willingness to provide each other with broader, non-discriminatory market access. Both sides will work on a number of key market access barriers ahead of the next EU-China Summit.

Negotiations on an Investment Agreement made progress with the aim of boosting investment and creating a level playing field. President Juncker said he welcomed the explicit agreement that there should be no forced transfer of technologies as a price for investment. A commitment was made to conclude negotiations in 2020. A provisional agreement was reached on the Geographical Indications text with a commitment to conclude negotiations in 2019. Both sides agreed that steel overcapacity remains a global challenge that requires collective responses.