DEPARTMENT OF STATE – The United States plans to “fix” and “revitalize” cooperation with its European allies, as Washington and Beijing are seen as vying for influence to support vaccine distribution and post-pandemic recovery in Europe.
US President Joe Biden is expected to speak virtually at the Munich security conference on Friday.
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will virtually engage with his counterparts in France, Germany and the UK on the so-called E3 to discuss what State Department spokesman Ned Price has called “Shared global challenges”.
Blinken will also participate in the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council on February 22 at the invitation of the EU High Representative, Josep Borrell.
Biden’s speech would come after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge to boost imports from Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs) into the Chinese market in the coming years.
Last week, Xi chaired a long-delayed virtual summit with leaders and senior officials from the so-called “17 + 1” bloc, seeking access to the European COVID-19 vaccine market while reaffirming China’s influence In the region.
The 17 + 1 bloc was launched in 2012 as China sought to cooperate with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Twelve of them are members of the European Union.
“China is willing to actively consider the vaccine cooperation needs of Central and Eastern European countries,” Xi said, citing Serbia and Hungary as two countries that have already started rolling out vaccination programs in the country. nationwide with Chinese vaccines.
“China intends to import more than $ 170 billion in goods from CEECs in the next five years,” Xi said, proposing to create a wholesale market for agricultural products in the CEEC region, with the aim of doubling the CEECs. agricultural exports to China and increase bilateral agricultural trade by 50% over the next five years.
Beijing’s call to European countries came as Washington redoubles its efforts to, as officials have described, “revitalize fundamental alliances” and return to multilateralism.
“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to deepening dialogue and cooperation with our allies and partners on China, starting with Europe,” a State Department spokesperson told VOA.
“We recognize that our European partners have their own interests and relationships, and we do not force them to choose between China and the United States. However, we remain concerned that China has frequently used multilateral organizations as a a tool to advance the economy, security and foreign policy interests at the expense of the peace and prosperity of other countries, respect for human rights and the rules-based international order ”, said the spokesperson.
Regional observers said Xi was greeted with a cold reception, with six countries choosing to send ministers instead of heads of state to the virtual summit, the lowest level of representation in nine years.
The six nations are Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovenia.
“Based on [the] collective work of @chinaobseervers, the preliminary list of CEEC participation in 17 + 1 [is expected to be] the lowest level [of] representation in the summit’s history, ”tweeted China Observers in Central and Eastern Europe, a group of experts providing insightful analysis of China’s growing influence in the region.
Based on a collective work by @chinaobseervers, the preliminary list of Central and Eastern European countries’ participation in 17 + 1 appears to be as follows. The lowest level of representation in the history of the summit. pic.twitter.com/gE24VRbIqT
ChinaObservers (@chinaobservers) February 9, 2021
Other observers said Beijing’s biggest success at virtual summit proves the 17 + 1 bloc is “not dead,” while noting that Xi has failed to attract all heads of state from Central and Eastern Europe despite personal invitations and “desperate actions” from the Chinese ministry in China. Foreign Affairs.
“No additional tangible influence acquired in the EU by Beijing,” tweeted Jakub Jakbowski, senior fellow at the Center for Oriental Studies, a Warsaw-based think tank.
“Little chance for this summit to stop the deterioration of relations with the CEECs (blocked economy, wolf warrior conflicts, American pressure)”, added Jakbowski. “Certainly will not derail EEC-US regional cooperation.”
Little chance for this summit to stop the deterioration of relations with the CEECs (blocked eco-coop economy, wolf warrior conflicts, American pressure). Certainly will not derail the EEC-US regional cooperative. Also, unlike -led #CAI, no additional tangible influence acquired in the EU by Beijing (4/4)
Jakub jakbowski (@j_jakobowski) February 9, 2021
In January, Serbia received one million doses of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the first European country to use Chinese vaccines for its mass deployment.
Serbia and China have maintained close ties as Chinese companies invest billions of euros in Serbia’s infrastructure and energy projects.
Serbia becomes first European country to use Chinese COVID vaccine for mass deployment
Belgrade has close ties with Beijing, and Chinese companies have invested billions of euros in Serbia, mostly in infrastructure and energy projects
Also in January, Hungary became the first country in the European Union to approve China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine. Many EU countries are based on vaccines supplied by the American companies Pfizer and Moderna.
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