Wednesday

29th Jan 2020

China agrees to address key EU concerns in snub to Trump

  • Jean-Claude Juncker (l), Li Keqiang and Donald Tusk (r) briefing the press after the 21st EU-China summit in Brussels (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The EU and China agreed on Tuesday (9 April) on a joint statement addressing key European concerns at a summit in Brussels.

The EU and Chinese negotiators overcame deep divisions in an effort to show unity in protecting a rule-based multilateral trade system, as Beijing is entangled in a trade war with the US administration of president Donald Trump.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

EU council president Donald Tusk described the discussions on Tuesday as "open and honest", "difficult, but fruitful", and said the joint agreement bases the EU-China partnership on reciprocity.

"The joint statement is reached because we have commonalities on wide-ranging issues, convergence, and common interests, […] we will open up markets in both ways," Chinese premier Li Keqiang said after the 21st EU-China summit.

"Today we are making good on our joint commitment to uphold and update the rule-based global order that has served us so well," EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told journalists after three-and-a-half hours of discussions.

Juncker said the joint statement was the result of "over 50 hours of careful negotiations over the last ten days".

Tusk called it a "breakthrough" that China agreed to engage in discussions on reforming the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, which is a "key priority for Europe".

China also agreed to address EU concerns over state subsidies to industrial firms creating unfair global competition, and has committed to taking decisive steps this year on liberalising its market to conclude a bilateral investment agreement by 2020. Talks have been dragging on since 2013.

The EU is hoping the investment agreement will be key in protecting EU companies in China from discrimination, and will remove barriers for market access.

"The EU wants to invest more in China but needs rules to do so," Juncker said.

The two sides agreed to set up a "political mechanism" to check the progress of the investment talks and report back to leaders by the end of the year.

Li said fair treatment should also apply to Chinese companies in Europe, following a question on security concerns on possible Chinese hacking of 5G systems in Europe.

"We hope that Chinese companies [in Europe] can receive fair and equal treatment as well," Li said, adding both sides will take non-discriminatory approach when it comes to dealing with companies.

"We will not treat EU companies with discriminatory policy, including solely foreign-owned companies. Chinese companies should not be discriminated against in their EU operations, there should be a presumption of innocence" he said.

"So far we have not received complaints about espionage, especially on 5G companies," premier Li said, adding that Chinese companies do not infringe local rules.

Juncker said the EU is "not targeting specific vendors or countries", and that anybody who applies the rules can take part in the market, "the question is to combine security and innovation", he added.

The 12-page joint statement stated that EU and China "commit to build their economic relationship on openness, non-discrimination, and fair competition, ensuring a level playing field, transparency".

China also agreed that there should be no forced technological transfer as part of an investment.

On protecting geographical indications - aimed at defending European brands on the Chinese market - the two sides agreed to come to an agreement by the end of the year, but Juncker said "there is still work to be done" on the issue.

The 11th-hour agreement on the joint agreement highlights EU and Chinese determination to present a united front in the face of Trump's "America First" policy.

"Our cooperation makes sense for both sides," Juncker said.

The EU is China's largest trade partner, while the Chinese market is the second biggest for exports from the bloc after the US.

EU and China struggle over key concerns ahead of summit

EU and Chinese leaders are meeting on Tuesday in Brussels as Europe seeks concrete guarantees from Beijing that it will treat EU firms fairly, and conclude agreements on trade and investment. But that might be a distant prospect.

EU and Japan in delicate trade talks

The Japanese PM comes to Brussels to discuss the first results of the new EU-Japan free trade deal, plus WTO reform - a sensitive topic before he moves onto Washington to face Donald Trump.

EU seeks mini-trade detente with US

EU states have agreed to open trade talks with the US in a bid to rebuild relations with their oldest partner on the world stage.

News in Brief

  1. EU asylum agency to expand operations in Greece
  2. EU set to repatriate citizens from coronavirus-hit Wahun
  3. German Left MEP resigns over former far-right membership
  4. Sassoli defends 'renewed approach' for enlargement
  5. UK approves limited role for Huawei in 5G network
  6. Cases of coronavirus in France and Germany
  7. Report: EU court seeks authority on post-Brexit deal
  8. Slovenian PM resigns, calls snap election

Magazine

EU diplomacy 2.0

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia, according to its German chairman, but foreign policy splits could bedevil its work.

Opinion

'A game of roulette' - life as a journalist now in Turkey

Turkey has more journalists behind bars than any other country in the world. The authorities seem to equate journalism with terrorism: everyone has the right to express themselves, but, in their eyes, legitimate journalism is a threat to security.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. EU not prepared for 2015 repeat, warns migration boss
  2. Selmayr did not want top job, says predecessor
  3. EU states wary of MEPs leading future conference
  4. Timmermans: EU climate law will 'discipline' rogue states
  5. In Orban's Hungary, the law is not for everyone
  6. 'Brexit is not going to go away,' warns EU's Barnier
  7. Belgian spy services launch internal clear-up
  8. US and UK in war of words over Huwaei

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us