China says the EU investment agreement in the final stage, welcomes progress

China said talks with the European Union on a bilateral investment agreement are in the final stages, citing progress between negotiators as they promote an agreement before the end of the year.

“Now the negotiations are in the final stages,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Friday. “I believe that as long as both sides can take care of each other’s concerns and move towards each other, we will be able to achieve the goals set by our leaders.”

Earlier, the South China Morning Post reported that the two sides reached an agreement “in principle” after receiving the support of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. Germany said the agreement would be discussed on Friday between the 27 representatives of the EU bloc on Friday, the report added.

“We are not there yet, but it is certainly feasible that, if things go the way they are now, we can end this year as well,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, executive vice president for economic affairs at the European Commission. Brussels told Bloomberg Television on Friday.

Dombrovskis added: “We need to rebalance the economic and investment relationship with China, because Europe is now much more open to Chinese investment than China is to EU investment.”

“Significant progress”

The agreement in question – known as Comprehensive investment agreement – has the potential to reshape China-EU economic ties, even if political divisions remain. Bilateral trade exceeded $ 650 billion last year, and the new agreement aims to build on that.

On Thursday, Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said in a regular briefing that the two sides held consultations focused on the remaining issues and made “significant progress.” “Both teams will continue to work hard to achieve the negotiation goals set by the leaders of both sides,” he said.

The agreement would be the second significant bilateral economic agreement between the EU and China this year after they were concluded on geographical indications in July 2020, according to Joerg Wuttke, President of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.

“CAI should increase the access of European companies to the fastest growing market in the world and provide them with a framework that allows them to compete on a level playing field, while protecting Chinese companies in the largest market – the EU” , Wuttke said earlier this week.

Human rights

While the agreement is a diplomatic victory for both sides, it will be especially welcomed by Beijing, as it offers a chance to rekindle ties with the EU, which have become increasingly cold in recent years.

Brussels has become more vocal criticism of China on a range of issues, from alleged human rights violations in the predominantly Muslim Muslim region of Xinjiang to the growing militarization of the South China Sea. The EU has also expressed concern about a new national security law in Hong Kong that has reduced freedoms in the former British territory.

Reaching an agreement was not easy. The discussions that began in 2013 were on the provisions for opening up the Chinese market and eliminating what the EU saw as discriminatory practices.

The EU also sought commitments from China on sustainable development issues, including labor issues – an area that had become a major obstacle to concluding the agreement.

– With the assistance of Colum Murphy, Lin Zhu, Jing Li, James Mayger, Jonathan Stearns and Maria Tadeo

(Updates with comments from European dombrovskis in the fourth, fifth paragraph)