EU pulls its gun on China – POLITICO

“For a long time, we talked about the European Commission having this toolbox. But we questioned the ability of the European Commission to use this toolbox effectively. Now we see that actually the European Commission is able and willing to use it,” said Francesca Ghiretti, a senior geoeconomics analyst at the Adarga Research Institute. 

Gunnar Wiegand, the ex-top diplomat on Asia at the European External Action Service and distinguished fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., also insisted the new trade weapons had always been designed for deployment, not just for show.

For the best part of a decade, the European Commission has been drawing up a stronger arsenal of trade defenses. | Olivier Hoslet/EFE via EPA

“Nobody should be surprised that the instruments which have been created in quite a long process over the last few years are now finally, actually being used,” he said.

Message to Washington

Europe’s tougher stance carries advantages and dangers. On the one hand, the EU’s more robust position on China is an olive branch to hawkish allies in the U.S., who have often been disappointed with Europe’s softly-softly approach. But it also means Europe needs to be ready for a counter-attack from Beijing and a stormy period of trade conflict.

The U.S. is definitely watching the new EU game plan closely. Immediately after this week’s announcement of a medical devices probe, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said she was following with “interest,” stressing the close collaboration between the two sides in “identifying and exploring ways to address the non-market policies and practices used by [China] in a range of sectors, including medical devices.” 

The subsidy investigations are not the only sign of Brussels’ stiffening resolve to tackle Beijing more directly. There is also growing pressure inside the EU to mount a more realistic challenge to China’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure investment projects — where Beijing extends its strategic reach by helping build ports and roads to link Asia to European markets.

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