EU, China leaders seal long-awaited investment deal

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BRUSSELS (AP) – Senior European Union officials and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday struck a trade investment deal that will open up great opportunities for European businesses, but which may irritate the new US administration.

Amid concerns over the human rights situation in China, the EU said the seven-year negotiations were concluded “in principle” during a video conference involving Xi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – and French President Emmanuel Macron also took part in talks with the Chinese president, the EU said.

“We are open for business, but we are committed to reciprocity, a level playing field and values,” said von der Leyen.

The videoconference launched a ratification process that will take several months as the text of the agreement still needs to be legally revised and translated before being approved by the EU Council. To enter into force, the agreement will then have to be ratified by the European Parliament and the issue of human rights could be a sticking point.

According to the EU, the deal was negotiated after China pledged to continue ratifying the International Labor Organization’s rules on forced labor.

On Tuesday, the EU expressed concern over “restrictions on freedom of expression, access to information, intimidation and surveillance of journalists, as well as the detentions, trials and sentencing of human rights defenders. human rights, lawyers and intellectuals in China ”.

Macron highlighted the “concerns” of EU countries regarding human rights and called for the “closure of internment camps”, according to the speech given by his office. He also pleaded in favor of “measures to ban forced labor” and called for “a visit of independent United Nations experts”.

The EU hopes that the agreement, known as the CAI, will help correct an imbalance in market access and create new investment opportunities for European companies in China by ensuring that they can compete on a equal footing when operating in the country. EU companies face competition from Chinese state-owned enterprises which can gain government support and easier access to finance.

“The EU has traditionally been much more open than China to foreign investment,” the EU said. “This is true for foreign investment in general. China is now committed to opening up to the EU in a number of key sectors. “

According to EU figures, China is now the bloc’s second largest trading partner behind the United States, and the EU is China’s largest trading partner. China and Europe exchange on average more than a billion euros per day.

Xi said China and the EU “have risen to the challenge” despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, state news agency Xinhua said. Xi said the deal would provide better market access and “better prospects for cooperation.”

China is of crucial importance to Germany, where companies like BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen make a significant portion of their profits in the world’s largest car market. Federation of German Industries chief executive Joachim Lang said the deal was “an important step,” but added that “what is decisive is rather how the Chinese government implements these improvements and whether the planned implementation mechanisms take effect. ”

The 27-country bloc said the deal is the most ambitious China has ever reached with a third country and that it will give additional access to many areas, including electric cars and …

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