The European Union has called on China to further open its market to foreign investors, seeking to keep the goal of a sweeping deal this year alive.
Following a video conference that brought together German Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU Summit President Charles Michel, European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen and Chinese President Xi Jinping, representatives of the bloc said that the ball was in China’s court to hit a target date of 2020 to seal the long-sought investment deal.
Read more: European companies in China demand fairer treatment and return of workers
The European side said Beijing should follow through on recent offers to pursue fairer economic policies with more concessions so that an investment deal can be reached by the end of the year.
“China must convince us that it is worth having an investment deal,” von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels after the video conference, which replaced an original plan for a full meeting of EU-China leaders. in Germany. “We need China to move.”
Chinese state news service Xinhua reported that the two regions had agreed to step up efforts to reach an agreement by the end of the year.
The EU and China have been negotiating since 2013 on a bilateral pact that would reduce Chinese restrictions on European companies. InIn April last year, the EU and China set an end-2020 target date for reaching an “ambitious” investment deal.
EU-China relations have been strained this year by alleged Chinese disinformation about the coronavirus, by Beijing’s controversial national security law for Hong Kong, and by intensified European efforts to protect domestic manufacturers from foreign competitors.
Yet the bloc is keen to show the economic benefits of a political approach towards China that is less confrontational than that pursued by the administration of US President Donald Trump.
The EU argues that the global economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus strengthens the case for a deal that would further open the Chinese market to foreign investors.
Merkel said an EU-China investment deal this year was still possible, telling reporters in Berlin that “it all got political momentum” following Monday’s video conference.
“It’s about protecting our own strategic interests,” Merkel said. “Over the past 15 years, China has become much stronger economically – this means that the demand for reciprocity, for a level playing field, is of course now fully justified.
– With the help of Nikos Chrysoloras, Colum Murphy and Katharina Rosskopf
(Updates with Xinhua’s statement in the fifth paragraph)
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