Feng Zhenglin (L), head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and Violeta Bulc (R), the EU commissioner for transport, sign agreements on civil aviation cooperation in Brussels, Belgium, May 20, 2019. (Xinhua/Council of the EU)
by Xinhua writers Zhang Yirong, Zhai Wei, Ren Liying
China and the European Union (EU) on Monday signed two agreements on civil aviation cooperation in Brussels.
The milestone deal meets a longtime aspiration of both sides to expand practical cooperation in this sector. European Commission (EC) President Jean-Claude Juncker said the agreements, "a first big step," "will create jobs, boost growth and bring our continents and peoples closer together."
The move, which came amid uncertainties worldwide furthered by U.S. unilateralism and trade protectionism, reaffirms the EU commitment to safeguarding openness, free trade and multilateralism while enriching the content of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership.
"In an increasingly unsettled world, Europe's partnership with China is more important than ever before," Juncker noted.
The deal is the first of its kind ever reached in the 20 years of cooperation in the civil aviation sector between China and Europe.
The bilateral agreement on civil aviation safety provides a legal framework for expanding cooperation in multiple aspects such as environmental compatibility, and the design and manufacturing of aeronautical products. It will help promote policy coordination and technological and people-to-people exchanges.
As a result of many rounds of consultations since August 2013, it is also expected to facilitate the trade of aircraft and related products. Among the measures is removing unnecessary procedural duplications in the evaluation and certification of aeronautical products to reduce cost.
"We believe the newly-signed accord will help establish more efficient, streamlined and standardized aircraft certification procedures and we look forward to the promulgation and implementation of the detailed regulations," said George Xu, CEO of Airbus China.
Moreover, the agreement serves as part of the joint efforts by China and the EU towards a higher level of civil aviation safety, especially after the crashes and the recent exposure of safety hazards of the U.S. Boeing 737 airliners.
"Today's agreements will boost the EU's trade in aircraft and related products, and ensure the highest levels of air safety," commented Violeta Bulc, the EU commissioner for transport.
Under the agreement on certain aspects of air services signed Monday, all EU airlines are allowed to fly to China from any EU member state with a bilateral air services agreement with China.
"Cooperation, openness and adherence to the promise made by high-level leadership of both sides are delivered by the agreements," said Ambassador Zhang Ming, head of the Chinese mission to the EU.
The two agreements were signed in line with the consensus reached at the 21st China-EU leaders' meeting in April. They are believed to be able to tap into the potential of growth in the aviation sector of both sides.
The European aviation industry supports 5.1 million jobs and contributes 2.4 percent of the European gross domestic product, while China envisions a growing market of civil aviation as well as an emerging industry of aeronautical products, according to the five-year EU-China Aviation Partnership Project, which was initiated in 2015 by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).
"The (Monday) agreements conform to the development needs of aeronautical industries in China and the EU ... and provide a legal basis for airlines operation of both sides," CAAC chief Feng Zhenglin told Xinhua.
The deal "will benefit all the industrial players in both China and Europe," said Xu of Airbus China.
ENRICHING CHINA-EU PARTNERSHIP
China and the EU established a bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership in 2003.
"Today's agreements show the potential of our partnership and we should continue on this path of cooperation," said Juncker.
The newly signed agreements, which came against the backdrop of the escalated U.S.-China trade tensions, highlights the EU efforts against protectionism, unilateralism and isolationism.
The move also represents the latest progress China makes in its further opening-up and reform, in addition to its promotion of win-win cooperation, free trade and multilateralism globally.
"In an increasingly unsettled world, Europe's partnership with China is more important than ever before. The EU firmly believes that nations working together makes the world a stronger, safer and more prosperous place for all," said Juncker.
Chinese ambassador Zhang said, "The first China-EU agreements on civil aviation turn mutual high-level exchanges results into practice."
"I believe China and the EU will continue to work together to encounter international uncertainties with stable cooperation," he added.
Before signing the deal on civil aviation cooperation, the two sides decided in April to conclude a comprehensive bilateral investment agreement in 2020.
"We are mutually interested in better connecting Europe and Asia and making it easier to move goods, services and people between Europe and China. That applies to aviation, too," said Bulc.
The expanding civil aviation cooperation will also work to forge closer ties between China and EU member states.
Czech President Milos Zeman recently told Xinhua he considers his country's civil aviation cooperation with China "most satisfying."
There are currently four direct air routes linking the capital Prague to Chinese cities, with up to more than 20 flights a week.
In the opinion of Shi Zhiwei, a senior marketing and sales officer of China's Hainan Airlines, the direct flights between Berlin and Beijing the company launched in 2008 "witnessed and greatly promoted the cultural exchanges" between China and Germany.
(Xinhua reporters Ying Qiang in Paris, Yang Xiaohong in Prague and Zhu Sheng in Berlin contributed to the story.)