Confined minds

The European Union must begin to build its own path, a path that is equidistant between the two great powers: China and the USA. And the agreement now concluded with China could be a new step.

1. After seven years of talks, the European Union and China or China and the European Union (depending on each person's liking) reached an agreement in principle on investments that, according to Charles Michel, President of the European Council, in an interview with the newspaper “Público”, “brings an advantage to European companies, which had a problem of access to the Chinese market due to lack of reciprocity. There was also an absence of Chinese commitment to issues of a social nature. So I am very pleased that the 27 have supported this step forward ”.

The European Union (EU) and Beijing approved it, on 30 December 2020, in videoconference, with the participation of President Xi Jinping and the European Union, President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Council, on the Chinese side. Charles Michel, German Chancellor and EU President-in-Office Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron. So many people stick well on the “menu" European!

Formal ratification, according to Charles Michel, still needs a few weeks of improvement in the legal area, so the work between the delegations continues for some time. The latest version of the agreement had been presented to representatives of the Member States on Monday 28 December, with no opposition to the content.

This “principle” investment agreement incorporates a wide range of other commitments, such as a Chinese commitment to issues of a social nature, for example, respect for fundamental and minority rights and an end to forced labor. It also includes an enumeration of sectors where investments by European companies will be well received, the abandonment of some recurring practices in China where investments were only allowed if, through mixed companies, the company's main managers were Chinese technicians and the mandatory transfer of technology.

Thus, significant advances in relationship were established in terms of reciprocity. Perfect deal? There never is, neither with China nor with any other country. Practice generates correct answers.

Vinca Charles Michel that the defense of human rights and respect for minorities are very important, but they must not paralyze the safeguarding of our investment interests or the ability to deepen and consolidate the defense of reciprocity.

European business autonomy

2. This agreement, which is still in the process of consolidation and in which the European Parliament will be called upon to intervene, has aroused fierce criticism in several instances in the USA and in countries assigned to the USA.

Portugal does not escape. And so, at the level of journalists, political analysts, politicians and economists of various trends, there are many concerns. Some even point to a certain “betrayal” of Europe.

Let's look at some arguments.

The most focused issue was that of the European Union don't fix with the USA the position to be taken. And another, what benefits does Portugal reap from this agreement?

Several possible answers to these two questions.

One possible option is to ask ourselves the basic reasons why the Union should consult the USA and agree on a joint vision before moving forward, which presupposes that if this were not achieved, there would be no signature.

As it turns out, the USA when it opened the trade war with China did not consult the EU. If the US is free in its action, why should the EU get down on its knees ?! But there were some, many, who defended and defend this attitude. We are thus in an implicit philosophy of first and second line powers.

But I raise another, more fundamental reasoning.

Simply put. There are two major world powers in non-military, but economic and technological confrontation, one on the rise, China, and the other much more in stagnation, the USA. On this topic I suggest an interesting work with a very provocative title: “Has China Won?” by Kishore Mahbubani.

One can speak of the European Union as a “third” power, at this moment of second level because it is well distanced in political weight in the world arena.

This “third” power, if it wants to enter the competition for the world top, and it would be great if it advanced in that line (it will take its time), it would bring high dividends for itself and for the World in terms of greater political, economic and Peace balance worldwide. To do this, you need to place your feet on non-slip ground and outline the behavioral bases of direction and autonomy.

You have to start building your own path, a path in the distance between the two great powers: China and the USA.

This agreement with China could be a new step. And I have to acknowledge the work and determination of the current European Commission and especially its President, because, in this and other areas, it has shown dynamics and determination.

It is interesting to remember here that António Costa first and second Charles Michel defended that the interests of the EU should be defended by the EU, so it would not make sense two agreements in one, that is, the Union to agree with the USA the agreement to be established with China.

Now, the EU's position of subjugation vis-à-vis the USA has been the paradigm and, according to many voices, it should continue. It is precisely this lack of an autonomous strategic vision of Europe that has led it to a second-tier power.

We are all aware of the US public meddling in our country and in others in the European Union because of possible Portuguese business with China. We cannot forget the recent interview of the American ambassador in Portugal, full of threats, and the arrival of a Secretary of State for the same purpose.

It can be claimed that it was in the Trump administration. This rude and public interview, yes. But counter-argument, as the US policy towards China, even in the future with Joe Biden, will be no different, it will only be more civilized. To paraphrase Kishore Mahbubani, the United States has "a strategic, diplomatic and emotional unpreparedness to deal with China, because the Americans are still clinging to the weapons with which they dominated the XNUMXth century".

As for the second question - which concerns Portugal - I exchanged ideas with some Portuguese business representatives. And registration. Anything that contributes to clearing up the international environment is positive for “business” and, in this case, I was told, improving EU / China relations is fundamental, especially since we are facing a different turn in the world in which China it is increasing its power. Portugal is not a country in the Community with great potential for investment abroad, but it can boost some niches. And all steps must be well thought out.

I didn't think they were apprehensive, on the contrary and, they added, our deindustrialization it was not due to the relocation of companies but to the closure of activities due to national incapacity, due to clear deficiencies in the “business model”. They even mentioned, which is a reality, in sectors such as footwear, textiles, molds and in certain segments of the automobile, not to mention tourism, Portugal has been gaining position in the markets and prestige in the international business environment.

Thus, it does not make sense for Portugal or for the European Union this position of appendix of the USA. A cooperative stance, yes, but on an equal footing.

But let's be clear. The greatest potential for exploitation of this agreement is at the level of large European companies or well-designed networked companies. Portugal has to move forward in reconfiguring its productive economic fabric, for which it needs qualified staff to be able to enter some niches. And here the Portuguese State has an important role to play.

The author writes according to the old spelling.

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