Italy, Europe and China - Reccomandations for a new cooperation strategy

Confindustria’s position paper on EU-Italy-China relations analyses the distinctive features of Chinese economic development model.

Firstly, the role of the Party in the economy and State Owned Entreprises’ economic weight/significance, which distort competition along entire manufacturing sectors. Secondly, the public procurement market and the protection of intellectual property, which greatly vary from the international standards.  Finally, despite the accession to WTO, China is still an effectively protected market.

This Paper does not argue the importance of China as partner for the Italian and for the European industry. Rather it emphasizes the way our companies should compete with Chinese counterparts in a more level playing field. In this respect, a unified European strategy is needed to ensure relations with China and to preserve Europe’s centrality in the global economy.

The debate on China has become more sensitive in the EU, also due to the global economic slowdown and the trade frictions with the US. Ambitious programs such as the “Belt & Road Initiative” or “Made in China 2025” have raised the attention of a number of private and public actors, including the EU Institutions.

Investments in infrastructure, research and innovation should be the mainstream of the EU economic policy. Reviewing the M&A regulatory framework to favour “EU champions” would improve an equal footing in competition. A common FDIs screening scheme would help seizing interests in strategic assets. Boosting EU-driven strategies and platforms, as well as guidelines for the Belt & Road initiative, would ease a win-win connectivity approach.

In order to establish mutually beneficial relationships with China, and to avoid the risk of marginalization from preferential trading routes, effective trade defence instruments and a sound network of free trade agreements are needed to counter illicit practices, widen preferential access, deepen regulatory convergence and promote sustainability standards in third markets.

Since a EU-China FTA looks premature, the EU must urge China to deliver on ongoing negotiations, such as on Investment agreement. To back bilateral reciprocity, the EU should seek the concrete enforcement of China's multilateral commitments in key areas and engage like-minded partners, as well as China itself, in the reform of the WTO. The G20 appears to be the political forum where efforts could be more effectively focused.

Italy, as founding member, second European manufacturer, and prominent regional hub, must take a leading and proactive role in this exercise.

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Italy, Europe and China - Raccomandations for a new cooperation strategy

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