EU, China move closer to bilateral investment deal after summit

Beijing (dpa) - The European Union and China on Monday moved closer to a bilateral investment agreement following a meeting between top officials in Beijing.

The agreement has been under negotiation for four years, although the EU and China both said progress had been made at their annual summit.

At 6 billion euros, European foreign investment in China in 2017 was five times smaller than Chinese investment in Europe over the same period, according to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

He said the “gap reflects a concern amongst our investors on the regulatory and administrative burden that foreign companies sometimes have to face in China” and called for an “open investment environment.”

In a report released in June, the EU Commission said while China was the EU’s second largest trading partner it also had the second most investment barriers in the world after Russia. These include “joint venture requirements, market entry restrictions, obligation of technology transfer as well as unjustifiable technical regulations.”

Meanwhile, China and the EU also signed their first joint declaration since 2015 following a meeting between Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday.

The eight page-document touched on a variety of issues from Syria and Afghanistan to addressing global steel overcapacity. It also included an additional declaration on climate change and renewable energy.

Previous disagreements on the South China Sea prevented a joint declaration from being signed in 2016 and 2017. 

Both China and the EU mentioned Beijing’s ongoing trade conflict with the US and the need to protect the global economy from an all out “trade war," as well as reform the World Trade Organization. 

"It is a common duty of Europe and China, America and Russia, not to destroy this [world] order, but to improve it. Not to start trade wars, which turned into hot conflicts so often in our history, but to bravely and responsibly reform the rules-based international order,"  Tusk said in a speech.

He also called on Trump and Putin to "jointly start this process from a reform of the WTO," saying there was "still time to prevent conflict and chaos.”

Li also said that China did not want a trade war with the US.

“China does not want a trade war with the US. No one emerges as a winner from a trade war,” Li told reporters on Monday.

“It’s up to the US and China to work things out,” he said, without adding further detail.

Earlier this month, the US and China headed towards a trade war, as both countries imposed tariffs on 34 billion dollars worth of goods this month. Washington has also indicated it may impose further tariffs on 200 billion dollars worth of Chinese goods, although it has yet to release further details.

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