Breakthrough in China trade ties with EU

Top News | ASSOCIATED PRESS 11 Apr 2019

Beijing and the European Union have agreed to strengthen their trade relationship, pledging to work toward making it easier for foreign investors to get access to China.

In a joint statement, the two sides said they committed to widening market access and eliminating discriminatory requirements for foreign companies and agreed that businesses should not be forced to transfer their technology - issues that foreign investors in China have long complained about.

EU leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker and Prime Minister Li Keqiang discussed the issues at their summit before claiming a breakthrough in their trade relationship.

"Negotiations have been difficult but ultimately fruitful," Tusk said. "We managed to agree a joint statement which sets the direction for our partnership based on reciprocity."

The stakes at the annual summit were high, with two-way trade between the EU and China worth around 575 billion euros (HK$5.08 trillion) annually.

The EU is China's biggest trading partner, while for the EU, only the United States is bigger.

The EU and China also said they reaffirmed the "rules-based multilateral trading system" with the World Trade Organization at its core and plan to intensify discussions aimed at beefing up international rules on industrial subsidies.

China wants a bigger role in the WTO and other international organizations like the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund. But China's ample financial support for state-owned companies has been the target of Western trade officials.

The summit statement shows "China is willing to make some concessions and that's important," said Mikko Huotari, deputy director of the Mercator Institute for China Studies, a Berlin-based think tank.

The closing statement said: "Both sides agree that there should not be forced transfer of technology."

Li strongly denied that Beijing is behind industrial espionage, saying the government has never called on Chinese companies to infringe intellectual property rights or steal trade secrets.

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