The emergence of “illiberal” governments in Central and Eastern Europe complicates matters further for the EU. These governments have no interest in any form of multilateralism, as they have embraced a narrow view of their interests. They often seem fascinated by the logic of realpolitik espoused by Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Moreover, these countries’ pursuit of their commercial interests could come at the expense of EU procurement rules. And they are not alone within the EU. Greece, for example, has accepted large amounts of Chinese investment. The EU then refused to mention China explicitly in a resolution on the conflict in the South China Sea.
To be sure, European countries are not wrong to welcome Chinese investment. But China should be reciprocating, offering European investment in China a warmer welcome. That is why the EU and China should work to complete the bilateral investment treaty that they have been negotiating for years, with limited progress. Such a treaty should rely on reciprocal rules, including the dismantling of barriers to China’s market.
French President Emmanuel Macron is trying to advance offensive multilateralism. But unless the EU as a whole embraces the cause, Europe – caught between China, which has a very conservative but outdated interpretation of multilateralism, and Trump, who wants to get rid of it – risks becoming a casualty.
Copyright: Project Syndicate 2018 – Europe Between Trump and Xi