South China Morning Post | 14 December 2020
EU and China set for further investment talks as end-of-year deadline for deal looms
by Wendy Wu
China and the European Union will hold a new round of negotiations this week as both sides aim to hammer out a landmark investment treaty
by the end of the year.
The talks come on the back of the 35th round of negotiations that finished last week, which the EU ambassador to China Nicolas Chapuis described as “intensive”.
He said further progress had been made on sustainable development, market access and institutional provisions in the talks conducted over video link.
“The negotiations will continue this week,” Chapuis said. “We are committed to the end-of-the-year deadline but prioritise substance over speed. More efforts are still needed to push the remaining issues over the finishing line.”
According to a brief statement posted by China’s Ministry of Commerce on Monday, the two sides made positive progress on the text of the treaty and the remaining problems. The statement did not elaborate and was little changed from previous statements.
China has actively reached out to the EU this year
in the wake of heightened tensions with the US, and talks have been conducted on a monthly basis.
Both sides want to wrap up the deal by the end of the year, but the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and tensions over issues such as Hong Kong and Xinjiang have increased doubts about whether this can be achieved.
The European side has also been pushing China to meet high standards on market openness and the protection of labour rights and the environment.
Zhang Ming, Beijing’s envoy to Brussels, said last week that differences between the two sides have been narrowed and both side were intensifying negotiations on market access and sustainable development.
“We hope the European side can continue to display a constructive approach, meet China halfway to reach consensus on the remaining issues as quickly as possible and strive to meet the targets laid out by both sides’ leaders on reaching a comprehensive, balanced and high-level investment agreement this year,” Zhang told a group of business executives via a video link on Thursday.
Earlier this month, Chinese vice-premier Hu Chunhua addressed a dinner to mark the 20th anniversary of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China while another vice-premier, Liu He held “constructive” talks with European Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis on the investment treaty talks.
In a phone conversation last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that he hoped Europe would be positive in its approach to China and called for a speedy effort to conclude the investment treaty talks.