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
"Now we are working very much on trying to agree on a bilateral investment treaty between the EU and China, then hopefully ... get a free trade agreement (FTA) as well," Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb told Xinhua in an interview.
Italy’s Deputy Economic Development Minister Carlo Calenda said he pushed for the start of FTA negotiations with China when he chaired a European trade ministers’ meeting in November in Brussels.
The EU commissioned a review of hundreds of thousands of measures that limit market access and business activities of foreign-owned companies in China.
The EU and China are discussing their planned bilateral investment treaty on the sidelines of the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Italy this week.
President Xi Jinping’s proposal that China and the European Union explore a free trade agreement is a sign of Europe’s pivotal role in the trilateral economic relationship among the United States, the European Union and China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping won a promise from the European Union on Monday to consider a multi-billion-dollar free-trade deal with his country, a long-held goal for Beijing which divides Europe.
Beijing’s top diplomat called on Monday for China and the European Union to consider a multi-billion-dollar free-trade deal, a once unthinkable step that shows a big improvement in relations between two of the world’s largest markets.
The BITs China signed with individual European countries in the 1980s and 1990s were mainly intended to attract FDI and are no longer suitable for the new economic realities facing China.
British Prime Minister David Cameron met Chinese leaders on Monday as he called for the European Union to negotiate a free trade agreement with the world’s second-largest economy.
China would "welcome" the creation of a free trade agreement with the European Union, its largest trading partner, but it could "take time" to be established, Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday.