EU, China set timetable for investment talks
Updated: 2013-11-28 06:50
By Tuo Yannan in Brussels (China Daily)
The European and Chinese sides have confirmed they will launch their first round of investment treaty negotiations early next year.
"It will be launched by about January or February, but we are still waiting to finalize the specific dates," a Chinese diplomat based in Brussels told China Daily on Wednesday.
On Tuesday at the China-EU Forum in Brussels, Joao Aguiar Machado, deputy director general at the European Commission Directorate General for Trade, confirmed that the two sides had succeeded in drafting a timetable for the first round of the long-awaited talks.
It is the first time both sides have discussed the timetable since Chinese and European leaders announced at last week's 16th EU-China summit in Beijing that they were entering into the eagerly anticipated investment agreement negotiations.
But neither side would say what the topics will be at the first round of negotiations or how many rounds will be held next year.
They did, however, indicate that the negotiations will be tough.
The European Commission received a mandate from its member states in October to negotiate for a unified treaty with China, and the Lisbon Treaty has authorized Brussels to take a negotiation position on trade and investment on behalf of member states. So far, there are 26 investment agreements between China and the EU member states.
Machado said this investment agreement is significant as it will be a test case to show that China and the EU can deliver an agreement and will provide assurances for the two sides' free trade agreement in the future.
Through this agreement, he said, the EU is looking to increase opportunities to invest in China, as well as protect its investors.
"To China, it is the same: to boost investment to Europe, improve investment predictability and to make sure the biggest two economics operate in a safe investment environment," Machado said.
Earlier this year, the two sides solved their solar panel trade dispute, a clash that Machado said was not surprising considering the scope of trade between China and the EU.
"The problem is how to deal with disputes. The solar panels were the most important case, and the EU proved its interest in working closely with China on trade," he added.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. The EU has been China's biggest economic partner for the past nine years. Bilateral trade totaled more than 430 billion euros ($584 billion)in 2012, a fourfold increase compared with a decade ago.
Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, said on Tuesday at the EU-China forum that leaders on both sides agree on the need to enhance trade figures as well as investments. The EU expects that the trade volume will grow by about 70 percent to $1 trillion by 2020 from the current level.
Van Rompuy recalled his discussions with Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing and praised the new leadership's decision to allow the market to play a "decisive role" in China's reform agenda, which was announced prior to the EU-China summit.
"Premier Li underlined that this would open new opportunities for investments in the non-public sector," said Van Rompuy, "and we would like to increase our cooperation with China."
(China Daily 11/28/2013 page17)