A senior Huawei official has called for “closer collaboration” between the EU and China, particularly in the ICT field.
Speaking on Wednesday, Abraham Liu, who heads up the company’s Office to the EU institutions, said there was “great potential” for cooperation, not least in 5G, cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence.
He said, “The EU and China have a history of ICT development and we should take advantage of this by working closely together.”
Currently, China is the EU’s second biggest trading partner after the US and the EU is China’s biggest trading partner.
As the volume of trade between the two sides was so high – the EU accounts for 13percent of China’s imports and takes in 16 percent of China’s exports – it was “vitally important” for the two to work closely together, he said.
His comments are timely as they come after the annual EU-China Summit in Brussels on Tuesday.
After the summit, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, presidents of the council and commission, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang issued a joint statement saying, “The EU and China recognise their responsibility to lead by example, pursue policies that support an open, balanced, and inclusive global economy which is beneficial to all, and encourage trade and investment,” adding that they “firmly support the rules-based multilateral trading system with the WTO [World Trade Organization] at its core, fight against unilateralism and protectionism, and commit to complying with WTO rules.”
At an EU Reporter roundtable discussion on EU/China relations, Liu welcomed the outcome of the summit and went on to say that he believes current relations between the two sides are “built on strong foundations.”
He said, “Both European and Chinese companies have developed very good relationships and a lot of progress has been made.”
Tusk admitted that the summit discussions had been “difficult” and Liu, speaking in parliament, also conceded that both the EU and China had to overcome “some obstacles”.
These, he suggested, include ongoing trust and transparency issues but he expressed “optimism” that such matters could be dealt with successfully.
“A lot of European companies go to China and face challenges but most of them see these through and have been successful,” said, Liu, Huawei’s Chief Representative to the EU Institutions and vice president for the European Region.
He told the debate in the European parliament, “I return to China quite regularly and I have witnessed the big changes that are taking place so, yes, I am optimistic that what is being promised (by the Chinese authorities) will actually happen.”
On the trust issue, he also made a robust defence of his company amid the ongoing debate about its role in the roll out in Europe of 5G technology and allegations, which it has strenuously refuted, that it has “spied” for the Chinese regime in the past.
He stressed that Huawei is “100 per cent” a private company and “100per cent” employee owned and not a state enterprise.
Its relationship, he said, with the Chinese government was the same as with governments in each of the 170 countries in which it operates.
He said, “There is zero evidence (of any wrongdoing) and we are totally committed to serving our customers. The success we have had is based on serving our customers better than our competitors.”
Further comment came from German MEP Helmut Scholz,who has lived and worked in China and said he too was satisfied with the outcome of this week’s summit, adding, “What we need now is implementation (of the summit proposals). That is still ahead of us and it will be much more difficult.”
On trade issues,he said, “It is important to realise that trade must serve the citizens and not just the profit margins of companies.”
He noted that in dealing with economic powerhouses such as China “naturally raises suspicions” in some quarters and that other related issues, such as ecological and employment matters, had to be taken into consideration.
Another member of the 3-man panel, Daniel Gros, director of the Centre for European Policy Studies, a leading Brussels based think tank, also touched on another thorny issue: procurement.
On this, he said, “In some ways China could be more open in this area but Europe itself has a long way to go too.”
At the summit leaders voiced joint support for rules based trade and reform of the World Trade Organisation.
But, in Gros’ experience what companies in Europe often complain about was their “treatment” in trying to operate in China.