China, EU complete investment agreement negotiations
Updated 22:47, 31-Dec-2020

China and the European Union completed the negotiation of a comprehensive bilateral investment agreement on Wednesday after seven years of talks. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping said the agreement demonstrated China's determination and confidence in promoting high-level opening up. He added that the agreement will provide the two sides with greater market access, a higher-level business environment, stronger institutional guarantees and brighter prospects for cooperation.

The announcement was made during a meeting between Xi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen via video link.

Xi emphasized that with 2021 approaching, China and the EU should show responsibility as the world's two major powers, to strengthen dialogue, increase mutual trust, properly handle differences and work together to cultivate new opportunities.

He added that the two sides should coordinate in the battle against the pandemic, jointly promote economic recovery and accelerate green development.

The agreement will greatly boost world economic recovery in the post-pandemic era, promote the liberalization and facilitation of global trade and investment, as well as enhance the international community's confidence in economic globalization and free trade, Xi said.

"Today's agreement is an important landmark in our relationship with China and for our values-based trade agenda. It will provide unprecedented access to the Chinese market for European investors, enabling our businesses to grow and create jobs," said von der Leyen.  

"It will also commit China to ambitious principles on sustainability, transparency and non-discrimination. The agreement will re-balance our economic relationship with China." 

"This deal will give European businesses a major boost in one of the world's biggest and fastest-growing markets, helping them to operate and compete in China. It also anchors our values-based trade agenda with one of our largest trading partners," according to Valdis Dombrovskis, executive vice president and commissioner for trade.

The European side also added it is a high-level investment agreement and it appreciates China's further opening-up and active approaches to spur trade liberalization and investment facilitation.


Opening markets wider

2020 also marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of China-EU diplomatic ties.

Fang Xinghai, vice chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, told CGTN in a recent interview that the treaty would open markets in Europe and China to each other's investors much wider. 

The deal between China and EU could also be applicable to other major economies, Fang said.

"Whatever terms that will be settled in the China-EU agreement, we could apply to other countries as well," Fang said in the Tuesday interview. 

So countries like the U.S. and Japan could also stand to gain from the investment treaty between China and Europe, much as European companies have gained from the phase one trade agreement between China and the United States, he said.

"We eagerly await the release of the details of this political agreement, and hope to find a robust and bold conclusion," said Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, in a note on Wednesday.

Li Chenggang, the assistant to China's commerce minister, said both China and the EU have made a high-level commitment on market access, as well as balanced and comprehensive rules in fair competition.

"China and the EU, as two of the world's large economies, have achieved a high-level investment agreement which sends out a positive signal of support for multilateralism and economic globalization. The agreement is a contribution to a more open world economy. And it will help to stabilize and develop the global industrial and supply chains, as well as the global economic recovery," Li said.

Zhou Xiaoyan, an adviser to the International Development Law Organization, a group that promotes the rule of law globally, echoed this view.

"The agreement has shown China's determination of comprehensively deepening its economic reforms and continuing its opening up policy. The standard of the agreement is higher than some regional and bilateral trade agreements, which will contribute to more multilateral trade and investment rules and regulations, as well as the future of global economic governance," Zhou said. 

"This agreement has solved the problem of market access across the key areas that both sides care about, including the EU's clean energy vehicles, its finance and health services, and China's manufacturing and energy industries."

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said earlier this month that he hopes the EU will continue to provide a fair, open and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies.

China replaced the U.S. to become the EU's largest trading partner in the first three quarters of 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Bilateral trade volume between China and the EU reached 425.5 billion euros ($517.5 billion) between January and September, compared with 412.5 billion euros ($507 billion) between the EU and the U.S. during the same period, according to Eurostat.

China has made continuous efforts to further open up its market, including further reducing the number of sectors and industries that were off-limits to both Chinese and overseas investors earlier this month.

(CGTN's Wang Hui contributed to the story.)

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