China is accelerating: EU agreement on the verge of breakthrough

Hardly anything happened for years, now it could happen very quickly: The EU and China seem to be largely in agreement on the deal on investment protection. The sudden rush is no accident.

In their seven-year negotiations on an investment agreement, China and the European Union appear to be on the verge of a breakthrough. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told the press in Beijing on Tuesday that “great strides have been made,” with the efforts of both sides.

It was expected that a fundamental political agreement could be announced after a conversation between China’s head of state and party leader Xi Jinping and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, as the German Press Agency learned in Beijing. The conversation could take place on Wednesday.

The issue of employee rights has also been clarified

The responsible EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis and China’s Vice Premier Liu He have already spoken about the outstanding issues. Your top-level meeting, which had already been planned a week ago, had initially been postponed, which indicated problems in the negotiations.

However, the EU Commission reported on Monday in Brussels about new positive developments, including on the issue of labor rights. When the EU ambassadors were briefed, the German Council Presidency finally stated that no EU state had given a stop signal and that “the way was paved for political support,” reported a diplomat.

China had made a surprising offer to the EU

The agreement is considered to be the most comprehensive attempt by the EU to reorganize its relationship with the second largest economic power, China. The goals are more market access for European companies, more security for investors and better competitive conditions.

Most recently, Beijing had surprisingly admitted to Brussels that investment bans should be removed in some sectors. There should also be no longer any obligation to have a Chinese partner. The rush could be related to the new US president.

China apparently wants to forestall the tough US course

With a view to the negotiations, Joe Biden made it clear that his government would like to see a vote with the EU on how to deal with China very soon. Biden had made it clear that he was sticking to a tough course against China and wanted to forge alliances with allies such as the Europeans. Beijing now apparently wants to forestall this.

After the USA, China is the Europeans’ second most important trading partner. In the European Union, however, there was resistance to the agreement.

EU insists on a ban on forced labor

The EU will only sign the pact if China undertakes to respect fundamental rights. For example, independent trade unions should be allowed and forced labor prohibited. Critics accuse China of using the oppressed Uyghur minority as slave labor.

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