This chapter explores the emerging ‘triangle’ in commercial relations between the EU, China and the United States, using the concepts of ‘complex interdependence’ and ‘bi-multilateralism’ as organising and evaluative devices. The chapter argues that in the ‘triangle’ there are important areas of unevenness and variation reflecting differences of power, institutional factors and norms, but that nonetheless there can be discerned important elements of ‘complex interdependence’ as defined by Keohane and Nye. This can be observed in the bilateral relationships between the three parties; at the same time, however, the EU-China-US relationship is central to power, institutions and norms in the changing multilateral commercial system, centred on the World Trade Organisation. This means that many of the commercial policy negotiations between the three parties are essentially ‘bi-multilateral’: on the one hand, the management of bilateral relations creates externalities for the multilateral system, and on the other hand the evolution of the multilateral system creates new forces shaping the management of bilateral relationships. The chapter examines two cases, China’s entry into the WTO and the management of trade disputes over textiles, to illuminate the ways in which ‘bi-multilateral’ elements enter into the EU-China-US ‘triangle’.

In: The European Union and China