Dhe groundbreaking investment agreement between the European Union and China is about to be concluded, according to information from EU circles. China officially spoke of “great progress” on Tuesday. The negotiations at expert level were over, it was said in Brussels.
A top-level meeting on Wednesday could bring the political agreement in principle. For Chancellor Angela Merkel it would be an important achievement shortly before the end of the German EU Council Presidency.
Work on the agreement has been going on for seven years. It is intended to fundamentally reorganize the relationship between the EU and the world’s second largest economic power, China, and give European companies better access to the huge Chinese market with 1.4 billion people. At times, the talks stalled due to disputes over possible forced labor in China. The problems now seem to have been resolved.
EU Commission vice Valdis Dombrovskis had recommended a political agreement in principle with the leadership in Beijing after the negotiations were over, EU circles said. China has made the necessary “substantial commitments” in three central points: market access, fair competition and sustainable development. These included “corporate standards for social responsibility and work”.
China has promised to undertake “sustained and sustained efforts” to ratify the ILO convention on forced labor. In addition, the EU will autonomously develop further instruments to combat forced labor.
The result of the negotiations is the most ambitious that China has ever agreed with a third country, according to EU circles. It would give European investors access to all sectors of the economy, including vehicles, cloud services, financial services and healthcare.
New rules against the forced transfer of technology as well as new obligations for state-owned companies and full transparency for subsidies are planned. The agreement is true core values and goals of the EU. For the first time, China agreed to solid rules for sustainable development, also with a view to the environment and climate.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in Beijing in the recent talks that efforts on both sides “made great strides”. 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, it said in Beijing. The conversation could take place on Wednesday. There was similar information in Brussels. The German Chancellor Merkel had also campaigned for a breakthrough during the six-month German Council Presidency. This will end on December 31st.
The EU Commission Vice President Dombrovskis, who is responsible for trade, and China’s Vice Prime Minister Liu He had spoken about the outstanding issues after media reports. The 27 EU countries seem on board. After the EU ambassadors were briefed by the Commission on Monday, the German Council Presidency stated, according to a diplomat, that no EU state had given a stop signal and that “the way was paved for political support”.
Even after a political agreement in principle, there would still be a need for clarification in detail. This would only be the first step towards the adoption and ratification of the agreement, it was said from EU circles. There was still plenty of time for political considerations and public debate.
There was resistance to the agreement in the EU, partly because of the human rights situation in China. The elected American President Joe Biden is also pressing for closer coordination in dealing with China. Biden himself insists on a tough course against Beijing.