EU-China Relations After the 2024 European Elections: A Timeline

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EU-China relations play a crucial role in the global business landscape. The current circumstances, marked by geopolitical shifts, economic interdependence, and technological competition, contribute to the volatility and frequent adjustments in this relationship. In this timeline, we aim to capture key milestones and developments that shape EU-China ties.

The European Parliament elections, held between June 6 and June 9, 2024, have ushered in a new era for EU-China relations. The election results revealed a significant shift in the political landscape, with centrist parties losing ground to far-right groups like the Identity and Democracy (ID) and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). This political realignment is poised to influence the EU’s approach to China, introducing more varied and potentially conflicting perspectives on policy.

Traditionally, the EU has maintained a cautious stance toward China, epitomized by the 2019 publication of the EU-China Strategic Outlook, which framed the relationship as one of “partnership, competition, and systemic rivalry.” This tripartite approach was later reiterated in the European Council’s Conclusion on China. However, the narrative toward China has taken a decisive turn with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s speech delivered on March 30, 2023. This speech marked a shift towards a more assertive stance, further strengthened by the release of the European Economic Security Strategy in June of the same year.

Following these events, the EU-China Summit held from December 7 to 8, 2023, served as a crucial opportunity for the EU to re-establish its engagement with China under these new conditions. Given China’s critical role in the global economy, the EU emphasized the need for robust regulatory tools to counter market distortions and enhance supply chain resilience.

In the aftermath of the 2024 elections, the increased fragmentation within the EU Parliament suggests a more complex and uncertain path to forming a cohesive strategy toward China. This uncertainty poses challenges for European companies conducting business with China, as well as Chinese and global businesses operating in Europe, who must now navigate a more unpredictable regulatory environment.

Amid these developments, the Chinese government is keenly observing the evolving dynamics within the EU. China aims to cultivate allies within the European bloc, and this intent was evident during President Xi Jinping’s recent European tour, which included official visits to France, Serbia, and Hungary. During his visit, President Xi reiterated the EU’s significance as China’s major trading partner.

As the new EU Parliament begins its work, strategic discussions have been underway to address key issues, including the EU’s technological and strategic autonomy. To manage different views and promote collaboration on shared interests with China, new cross-regional working groups have been established. These groups are focusing on sectors such as agriculture, aviation, artificial intelligence, energy, and finance, aiming to enhance resilience and foster dialogue.

In this article, we present a timeline of EU-China relations following the EU Parliament elections, reflecting the complexities and opportunities presented by this new chapter in bilateral relations.

EU-China relations after the 2024 EU elections

July 8, 2024 – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives in China, meets with President Xi Jinping

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on July 8, 2024, at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing. This meeting follows Orban’s discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin about a potential peace deal for Ukraine.

The Beijing visit is part of Orban’s “peace mission,” launched shortly after Hungary took over the EU’s rotating presidency at the beginning of July. Orban highlighted this mission on his official X account upon arrival in Beijing, underscoring Hungary’s efforts to foster peace in the region.

China, maintaining strong ties with Russia, has been actively promoting a six-point peace plan initially issued with Brazil in May, 2024. Orban expressed his appreciation for China’s peace initiatives. He emphasized the significance of China’s role in establishing conditions for peace in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, particularly for Hungary, which shares a border with Ukraine.

July 5, 2024 – China to hold hearing on European brandy imports

China’s Ministry of Commerce has scheduled a hearing for July 18 to address claims that European brandy producers are dumping their products in China by selling them below market rates. This investigation follows requests from prominent brandy houses such as Martell, Societe Jas Hennessy & Co, and Rémy Martin.

The investigation could lead to China imposing duties on EU brandy imports, which would notably impact French producers, who account for approximately 99 percent of all EU brandy exports to China.

July 3, 2024 – Xi Jinping congratulates Antonio Costa on his election as President of the European Council

Chinese President Xi Jinping has extended his congratulations to Antonio Costa on his election as President of the European Council. In his message, Xi emphasized China’s commitment to its strategic partnership with the EU and highlighted the importance of Europe in a multi-polar global structure.

Xi reiterated China’s dedication to fostering a robust China-EU partnership, expressing his readiness to collaborate with Costa to maintain and strengthen their bilateral relations. He outlined focal points for future cooperation, including deepening strategic communication, enhancing mutual understanding and political trust, building consensus, and expanding cooperation across various fields. These efforts aim to ensure the steady development of China-EU relations and contribute positively to world peace and development.

Additionally, Chinese Premier Li Qiang extended his congratulations to Costa, signaling the importance China places on its relationship with the new leadership of the European Council.

The election of Costa and the positive response from Chinese leadership indicate a mutual interest in expanding collaborative efforts between China and the EU.

June 24 to June 25, 2024 – Polish President Andrzej Duda visits Beijing, meets with President Xi

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Polish President Andrzej Duda met in Beijing on June 24, 2024, to discuss enhancing cooperation between China and Poland. The meeting, held at the Great Hall of the People, highlighted the robust and longstanding relationship between the two nations. President Xi praised President Duda as a “long-time friend” and emphasized the enduring nature of Sino-Polish relations amid global uncertainties.

Key outcomes of the meeting included agreements on bilateral trade, investment cooperation, and agricultural exports. These agreements aim to strengthen economic ties between China and Poland, which could have significant implications for the business communities in both countries as well as in Europe. During the meeting President Xi also announced that China will remove the visa requirement for Polish citizens, allowing them to enter the country without a visa for stays of up to 15 days. The new policy is expected to facilitate easier travel for Polish tourists and businesspeople, thereby promoting cultural exchange and economic cooperation between the two nations.

In the context of increasing tensions between China and the EU—particularly over proposed tariffs on electric vehicles and China’s investigation into EU pork imports—the Sino-Polish dialogue stands out as a beacon of potential stability and cooperation. President Duda’s remarks on the mutual respect and strong political relationship between Poland and China over the past 75 years highlight a foundation for continued positive engagement.

The launch of a new freight train service from Guangzhou to Warsaw further underscores the commitment to improving trade efficiency. This service, which reduces transit time by 30 percent, is expected to enhance the flow of goods such as air conditioners and coffee machine accessories, benefiting businesses on both sides. This development is particularly significant for the Polish business community, which stands to gain from quicker and more reliable access to Chinese markets.

June 23, 2024 – China and the EU are set to have more talks regarding EV tariffs

China has agreed to enter discussions with the EU regarding the imposition of higher tariffs on Chinese EVs. This decision was announced during the visit of Germany’s Vice-Chancellor and Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Robert Habeck, to Beijing. Habeck welcomed this move as a positive first step, though he noted that further actions would be necessary.

The talks aim to address the EU’s anti-subsidy investigation launched last year, which led to the decision to increase tariffs on Chinese EVs up to 48 percent. The agreement to begin consultations follows a video conference between China’s Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao and EU Executive Vice-President and Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis.

Germany, heavily reliant on the Chinese market for its carmaking industry, has been critical of the EU’s tariff decision. Habeck’s visit marks the first by a senior European politician since the new duties were announced. The Chinese market’s significance for German carmakers makes Berlin particularly vulnerable to any potential retaliatory measures from the Chinese government, which has already initiated an anti-dumping investigation into EU pork products.

June 13 to June 15, 2024 – G7 reunites in Italy and issues warning to China, escalating trade tensions

During the G7 summit held in Apulia, Italy, leaders issued a strong warning to China over its trade practices, highlighting concerns such as “harmful overcapacity” and “market distortions.” While emphasizing that their aim is not to harm China, they expressed reservations about its industrial policies and non-market practices. Additionally, the G7 leaders condemned China’s support for Russia, particularly the transfer of dual-use materials that could aid Russia’s defense sector, and pledged to take measures against entities in China and third countries that support Russia’s military efforts. This follows the European Commission’s announcement of import duties on Chinese EVs, further escalating trade tensions.

In response, the Chinese government accused the G7 nations of “smearing and attacking” China, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asserting that these actions hinder international peace and regional stability. China summoned Japan’s ambassador to protest the “hype around China-related issues” and warned the UK to stop its “slander” to avoid damaging bilateral relations.

June 12, 2024 – The European Commission announces provisional import tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles

On June 12, the European Commission announced provisional import tariffs on electric vehicles (EVs) from China, ranging from 27.4 percent to 48.1 percent, following an anti-subsidy investigation. This decision comes shortly after the United States imposed their own tariffs on Chinese EVs, which have risen to an unprecedented 102.5 percent.

In response, the Chinese government has initiated an anti-dumping investigation into pork imports from the EU. While the Chinese Ministry of Commerce did not directly link this investigation to the EV tariffs, it is widely perceived as a retaliatory move. The investigation encompasses various pork products, including fresh and frozen meat, intestines, and other internal organs, and is expected to last one year with a possible six-month extension.

This strategic decision is deemed to mainly target European agriculture rather than German automakers, possibly to leverage in trade negotiations. Despite speculation that China might impose a 25 percent duty on large-engine gasoline-powered vehicles, which would significantly impact brands like Mercedes and BMW, the government has refrained from this action, likely considering the significant presence of these automakers in China and their opposition to the EU tariffs.

Meanwhile, the European Commission’s trade measures may extend beyond EVs to other key components of Europe’s energy transition. Recently, an anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese solar panel manufacturers was closed after the companies withdrew from a public project in Romania. Additionally, an ongoing investigation into Chinese wind turbine suppliers is being conducted under the new Foreign Subsidies Regulation. 

June 6 to June 9, 2024 – The European Parliament elections reveal a shift to the right

The 2024 EU elections, held between June 6 and June 9, 2024, have significantly reshaped the political landscape within the EU, prompting a re-evaluation of power dynamics among member states and within the European Parliament. Despite varying interpretations of the results, two primary perspectives have emerged: a notable surge in far-right support and a resilient centrist presence, particularly from mid-sized and smaller countries.

In Germany and France, the far-right experienced significant gains, with dramatic increases in voter support. However, centrist parties have maintained a stronghold at the EU level, largely due to voters from countries like Poland, Spain, and Romania. This has enabled a pro-European, centrist majority to form, likely securing Ursula von der Leyen another term as Commission president. This majority will not be heavily influenced by the governing parties of France and Germany, thereby diminishing the influence of leaders like Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz within the European Parliament.

Macron’s party secured only 13 of the 79 seats in the Renew Europe group, while Scholz’s Social Democrats won just 14 seats in the 135-member S&D group. In contrast, other leaders have emerged stronger, such as Donald Tusk of Poland’s Civic Coalition, which won 21 seats, and Romania’s coalition parties, which secured 19 seats. These developments suggest that countries previously considered on the periphery will now be central to the new von der Leyen majority, impacting decisions on the Commission president, commissioners, regulations, and the general direction of the EU.

As EU leaders convene at various international summits, such as the G7 meeting in Italy and the upcoming Ukraine Peace Summit in Switzerland, discussions about top EU jobs are taking place alongside broader international issues. The emerging consensus points toward von der Leyen continuing as Commission president, Roberta Metsola staying on as European Parliament president, and António Costa as a potential European Council president. Estonia’s Kaja Kallas is also a contender for the EU foreign policy chief position.

This timeline was first published on June 21, 2024, and will show rolling updates.

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