1 November 2012


Bates Gill

Dr Bates Gill

Associate Fellow, Asia-Pacific Programme and US and the Americas Programme (based in Australia)

Andrew Small


  • The European Union, the United States and China are the top three global actors in a range of measurements and indicators. It is difficult to see how major global and regional challenges can be effectively met if they are not working in concert - or at least are not in active opposition to one another in important areas.
  • There are strong imperatives and increasing convergence between the three parties on common economic and security interests. The difficulty is in identifying cooperative actions that they can genuinely and jointly embrace, implement and sustain together.
  • This contradictory and complex dynamic points to a cautious set of policy prescriptions. These prescriptions recognise the fundamental need for the EU, the US and China to build up and act on their common interests and challenges. But they are firmly rooted in a realistic appreciation of the limits to trilateralism and of the power of bilateral ties for achieving meaningful results in promoting common economic and security interests.
  • The EU can play a linchpin role in fostering greater trilateral partnership, purpose and action on the global stage. But to do so, it will need to substantially step up its engagement with the burgeoning power dynamic of the Asia-Pacific region. 
This paper forms part of the ECRAN project's publication series. ECRAN is a three-year project funded by the European Union to provide advice on China to European policy makers. More about ECRAN.