Eu governments this week voiced support for an EU-China investment pact with China, with eu officials pressing for negotiations to be completed within this week to allow access to Chinese markets for EU investors, handing both sides a major geopolitical victory. Clearing the way for an agreement would be an important diplomatic breakthrough for Beijing at a time of broken relations between China and the EU. An EU-China agreement would also challenge the shifting order set by U.S. President Donald Trump as a Priority for the United States, Bloomberg noted.
For the EU, the eu-China Investment Agreement, which has been under negotiation since 2013, would expand access to the Chinese market for foreign investors in industries from automobiles to biotechnology. It would also address potential Chinese policies that Europe and the United States see as distorting market principles, such as industrial subsidies, state-controlled companies and forced technology transfers. For China, the deal could strengthen its claim to be the geopolitical mainstream, limit the risks posed by the EU’s tough stance on Chinese investment in Europe and strengthen Beijing’s longstanding call for free trade talks. But the EU insists the move depends on reaching an EU-China investment treaty first.
Mr Trump has spent the past four years threatening European Allies to join the fray by destabilising the World Trade Organisation, waging a tariff war on China and striking it with controversial import tariffs. The relationship between China and the European Union is already under strain. China’s recent enactment of a Hong Kong national Security law has drawn even more intense criticism. The EU also accused China of spreading false information about a novel Coronavirus and issuing the first-ever sanctions against a Chinese carrier. The two sides pledged in April 2019 to conclude an EU-China investment treaty by the end of 2020, but the EU had previously played down the background for a deal and said China needed to make bigger concessions.
China’s Foreign ministry said last week that the talks were in the final stages, and EU diplomats said an agreement would be announced this week, the AFP news agency noted. “We have to be careful,” the official warned, “but once an agreement is reached with China, Brussels and Beijing will probably announce it before the end of the week.” Although no member state expressed any intention of blocking it at the meeting, The Polish ambassador, Andrzej Sados, later said he had expressed scepticism after Germany added it to the agenda.
“The new US administration is about to start work and I think the agreement with China should take into account the RELATIONSHIP between the EU and the United States,” Sardos told Poland’s PAP news agency. After seven years of hard negotiations, we should not rush. Meanwhile, the EU-China Investment Treaty project was suddenly on the agenda of a meeting of EU ambassadors in Brussels, an unheard of move. In the last days of the German presidency, we are stepping up our efforts to deal with important issues relating to international relations.”
Not long ago, Reinhard Butikofer, the head of the European Parliament’s delegation to the China negotiations, tweeted about the tangle of the EIAS. “It would be a very interesting development if the EU ignored its concerns about Chinese forced labor and finally reached an agreement with China soon,” he wrote. “The Biden transition team’s trans-Atlantic cooperation actually offers China a better and stronger opportunity. But I don’t think the deal with China will affect the EU’s intention to build a closer partnership with the United States.”
The European Commission said before Christmas that a draft china-eu Investment treaty was ready, at 95 per cent progress, but member states had to give it a green light. While China’s commitment to workers’ rights remains an obstacle, Europe has long sought greater access for its companies to the vast Chinese market. Joerg Wuttke, head of the EU chamber of Commerce, said it was clear the negotiators had made considerable progress in market access. As part of the agreement, the EU has also been pushing Beijing to strengthen respect for intellectual property rights, end its obligation to transfer technology, reduce subsidies to public companies and improve climate commitments.
The FINANCIAL Times points out that the EU has long wanted a deal that would give EU companies wider access to the Chinese market. The two sides agreed last year to sign a bilateral investment treaty by the end of this year to ensure that it becomes their foreign policy. Zhang Ming, China’s ambassador to the EU, said the talks were now in the final stage. “China and the EU have agreed on a level playing field provision, focusing on outstanding issues such as market access and sustainable development, and Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly publicly pledged to reach agreement. It is a special case that China’s top leaders give a commitment, which shows China’s political commitment to open wider and promote China-Eu cooperation. So let’s look forward to what happens next.”