There is currently tension in the triangle of globalization powerhouses as the EU, US and China try to maintain cooperative growth amid US protectionism and Chinese ambition. Healthy competition hangs in the balance.
At the G20 finance ministers meeting in Germany on Friday, March 17, finance ministers from the world's largest economies were struggling to find consensus on free trade and protectionism for their final communiqué due to be released Saturday. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble told reporters that "It's possible that we explicitly exclude the topic of trade in Baden-Baden and say that can only be resolved at the summit of the state and government leaders."
The uncertainty at the G20 and the handshaking between Berlin and Beijing are in response to an anticipated US turn to protectionism under President Donald Trump's "America First" economic rhetoric and statements from Trump threatening import duties on Chinese and German goods.
In February, Reuters reported that the EU was preparing an "early" summit in April or May with China to "promote free trade and international cooperation" in the face of protectionism from Washington.
The report suggests that China wants to reemphasize President Xi Jinping's performance at the World Economic Forum in Davos where he championed China as a bastion of globalization.
But behind diplomatic assurances of cooperation and open markets between China and the EU vis á vis a new tone in Washington, the US and the EU share concerns that if China becomes the leader in key global industries, they will able to form their own protectionist policies and cut out western companies in favor of domestic enterprises.