Since 2012, China has been trying to get the European Union to agree to initiate bilateral free trade agreement talks. China is absent from both the transpacific (TPP) and the transatlantic (TTIP) trade deals and wants "in" on a similarly large pact itself in order to avoid losing out on trade flows or to have to follow new "global" standards set by others. European firms, for their part, want greater openings into China and a more even playing field with domestic companies, especially State-owned enterprises.
In March 2014, Brussels agreed that once an EU-China investment treaty is concluded it will consider broader trade talks with Beijing. The investment treaty negotiations began just a few months prior, in November 2013. Once finalised, this BIT willl replace the 26 existing BITs that China has signed over the years with individual EU member states.
The EU is China’s largest trading partner, while China is the EU’s second export market.
Photo: European External Action Service - EEAS / CC BY-NC 2.0
The two sides have been making slow progress, but vice-premier Liu He’s phone conversation with his European counterparts is seen as an attempt by Beijing to refocus attention on the matter.
Delayed negotiations will ‘proactively proceed’, Ursula von der Leyen tells Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in phone call.
A summit planned for the end of March in Beijing between China and the European Union is set to be postponed due to the coronavirus.
A planned EU-China investment agreement looks unlikely to be struck by September as planned because of the coronavirus outbreak, European Union trade chief Phil Hogan said.
Trade Chief Hogan says he still wants to do a deal in 2020. China has been in talks with EU on investment since 2013.
China and the EU are expected to hold their annual summit at the end of March, two weeks before Beijing hosts a high-profile meeting with the leaders of Central and Eastern European countries.
Later this week negotiations for a comprehensive agreement on investment between the EU and mainland China will be held in Brussels.
Chinese foreign affairs minister Wang Yi called for the launch of free trade talks with the EU, in parallel with ongoing negotiations on an investment deal.
This is the first comprehensive, high-level bilateral agreement China has ever signed with foreign businesses to protect geographic indication.
China’s all-consuming focus on sealing a US trade deal forced its top trade negotiator to cancel a trip to Brussels, raising the risk of Europe being pushed “off a cliff”.