Spain’s PM Sánchez: ‘Europe And Asia Must Join Forces To Address Global Challenges’
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has taken part in the opening of the annual meeting of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA). The theme of this edition is ‘An uncertain world: Solidarity and development cooperation in the midst of challenges‘. The forum, which was conceived with the aspiration to promote economic integration in Asia, is now broadening its objectives and is also seeking to harness positive energy for Asian and global development.
Sánchez’s participation in the Boao Forum is part of an official visit that will also include three meetings, each with one of the three main Chinese state authorities: President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Qiang and the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, Zhao Leji.
Several meetings of an economic nature are also planned, including a meeting with representatives of Chinese companies in the tourism sector and other bilateral meetings in the framework of the Boao Forum: with the Managing Director of the IMF, and with top-level representatives of the companies Astra Zeneca and Mitsubishi.
Sánchez met with more than 40 leaders from three different continents in less than a week, as he pointed out in his speech at the Boao Forum, alluding to his participation in last week’s European Council, the 28th Ibero-American meeting in Santo Domingo and his official trip to China. “In all the meetings I have heard the same desire for peace, stability and prosperity,” he stressed, underlining that “no one wants economic fragmentation or war”.
Sánchez highlighted the main challenges facing humanity today, underlining the climate emergency, the pandemic and Russia’s brutal and illegal aggression against Ukraine, recalling that the war is causing “a severe humanitarian crisis, food insecurity, inflation and growing debt distress in an increasing number of vulnerable countries”.
Sánchez recalled that situations such as the current one require responsible and constructive actors, and stressed that Spain, as a reliable and open country, is one of them. He pointed out that the forthcoming Presidency of the EU and the fact that Spain is not only part of the Ibero-American community but also an active member of all the major multilateral organisations and forums, endorse this position. “It is essential to rebuild trust through dialogue, solidarity and cooperation,” he said, welcoming the Chinese authorities’ intensified diplomatic contacts with leaders around the world. “It reflects a high degree of responsibility, and we want to contribute to these efforts,” he continued, reiterating the need to continue building bridges and increasing mutual trust.
Sánchez restated Spain’s support for a rules-based international order and the importance of maintaining free, balanced and fair trade to promote stability and prosperity. “A fragmented world ruled by protectionist tendencies is a return to the past,” he said, “with all its shadows and uncertainties”.
Referring to a new way of conceiving and articulating globalisation, Pedro Sánchez addressed the matter of production costs, recalling that they are no longer the only criterion for deciding where to locate production facilities. “Safety, the environmental footprint and, above all, reliability are now more important,” he said, stressing that this is a positive sign that will also create more resilient, efficient and sustainable supply chains.
Sánchez highlighted, China’s modernisation and Asia’s growth have been beneficial for the whole world. “Asia and Europe have prospered hand in hand for centuries and can continue to do so now,” he said. The president addressed the new realities to which Europe is adapting in a context of constant change, referring to the need to accelerate its Green Pact to lead the fight against climate change, move away from dependence on Russia for gas and oil, and build a new green and digital industrial base.
China and the EU, partners and competitors
Pedro Sánchez reminded attendees that China and the EU, as large markets and geopolitical entities, must compete in some areas and cooperate in others. In this respect, he underlined that Europe will continue to defend its values, principles and views, which it will not renounce, while maintaining “an independent perspective, in full awareness of our objectives, interests and priorities”.
He pointed out that while Spanish and Chinese companies are often competitors, “they are also partners in the development of transport, energy and health infrastructure projects”, not only for Eurasia but for the world, citing as an example the recent investments of large Chinese construction groups in Spanish engineering companies, which are also creating opportunities for the development of joint projects in Latin America.
In this regard, Sánchez reiterated the importance of continuing to deepen this mutually beneficial collaboration, stressing that this relationship must be based on respect for the sovereignty of each country. “This means ensuring full reciprocity between partners and providing a stable regulatory framework that allows domestic and foreign companies to compete on a level playing field.” Pedro Sánchez recalled that there is ample room for cooperation between Europe and China. “We must remain economic partners, and our relationship must extend beyond that,” he stated.
Three key areas
Sánchez addressed three areas where there is ample scope for collaboration between Europe and China. First, the strengthening of multilateralism. In this context, he affirmed that both actors believe in a strong, transparent and rules-based multilateral system as a framework for discussing global challenges. “No global problem can be solved unilaterally,” he underlined.
Second, he referred to the need to accelerate the fight against climate change, recalling that as signatories of the Paris agreement, both Europe and China can increase their efforts to move towards the energy transition. Third, the president addressed the need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and reform the international financial architecture. “The G20 and SDG Summits in September will be an opportunity to demonstrate our common determination to increase financing for development and find solutions to the growing debt sustainability risk faced by many emerging and low-income economies,” he said.
Spain and China, 50 years of diplomatic relations
This year, Spain and China celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Sánchez highlighted the optimal evolution of this relationship in terms of trade, recalling its significant expansion, almost doubling between 2017 and 2022 from 32 billion euros to 57.7 billion euros.
China is also Spain’s leading supplier and the largest market in Asia for Spanish companies, and both the number of Chinese citizens visiting our country and the number of Spanish companies operating there is also growing significantly. “This is because Spain is today one of the best places in Europe to invest and do business,” said Sánchez, underlining its ideal geopolitical position, a vibrant and robust private sector, world-class digital and physical infrastructure, a highly skilled workforce, and affordable clean energy, not to mention the institutional stability and legal certainty that investments need to flourish.
In this regard, Sánchez stressed that Spain continues its growth above the Eurozone average, has one of the lowest inflation rates in the EU and has reached historic levels in foreign direct investment, with flows of almost €35 billion, “a large part of which is destined for industrial projects and renewable energies”. He also recalled that global investors trust in Spain, and that foreign capital financed 860 greenfield projects last year, placing Spain in sixth place in the world, ahead of China, Japan and France.
Pedro Sánchez highlighted that the EU has granted Spain more than €70 billion from the NextGenerationEU Funds to modernise the production system and promote 10 strategic projects in areas such as electric vehicles, renewables, green hydrogen, storage, aerospace, agribusiness, advanced healthcare and microelectronics.