Wednesday

1st Feb 2023

EU businesses urge China to deliver on trade and access

  • EU companies say their local Chinese counterparts are treated much better. (Photo: Bank of China)

A top European business lobby group called on Chinese leaders to follow through on public commitments to free trade and globalisation, including reciprocal access to China's market for trade and investment.

In a new position paper, published on Tuesday (19 September), the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China says European businesses are suffering from "promise fatigue" because several assurances by China were never met in recent years.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

China's ruling elite will hold a congress that kicks off on 18 October, and European companies hope the new leadership emerging from the meeting under Chinese president Xi Jinping will deliver on earlier anti-protectionist messages.

In January, Xi Jinping delivered a speech in Davos, Switzerland, in defence of globalisation and free trade, against the backdrop of US president Donald Trump's "America first" policy.

"We hope that the new line-up after the 19th Party Congress will show that there are people in place that are committed to further opening up," European Union Chamber of Commerce in China president Mats Harborn told reporters.

"If you ask our member companies […] they are not very optimistic that these changes will happen," Harborn was quoted by Reuters as saying.

New restrictions on food imports, starting from 1 October, also concern the lobby group, which argues the new rules impede trade.

AFP reported that, in recent weeks, Chinese officials barred the import of certain mould-ripened cheeses with little explanation.

European businesses are also calling for an end to foreign investment restrictions.

The paper cites the pharmaceuticals industry as one sector where progress has been made in opening up to foreigners.

But Chinese rules force European firms to partner with local firms and often to share crucial technology, whereas Chinese companies in Europe have no such restrictions.

Harborn said China's investment climate is "too complex, unpredictable and opaque to attract foreign capital".

He cited figures that said Chinese investments in Europe rose by 77 percent last year, while EU investments in China fell by a quarter.

The chamber's report states that 54 percent of European companies perceive that they are being treated less favourably in comparison with their Chinese counterparts.

Yet, if greater market access were granted, 56 percent of European firms would be more likely to increase their investments.

"But the Chinese authorities continue to ring-fence foreign investment with administrative measures," the 400-page report claimed.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang responded at a press briefing on Tuesday, saying that "China firmly supports an open world economy and improves its business environment."

"We are the advocate, contributor and architect of the multilateral trade regime," the official was quoted as saying by AFP.

The European Commission last week proposed an EU-wide screening mechanism on foreign investments and the acquisition of sensitive European technology, or strategic assets.

Germany, France and Italy were quick to support the proposal last week, but Finland and other EU countries have also voiced concerns, fearing that it is going to be seen as a protectionist move.

EU preparing to screen Chinese investments

The EU is to screen foreign investments to avoid takeovers in sensitive sectors. But the plan, mainly aimed at China, will raise political and technical difficulties.

EU commission changes gear on trade

The EU executive seeks new deals with Australia and New Zealand, while aiming to overhaul the global investment protection system. It also wants to screen foreign investments.

Analysis

Trump is 'gift' for China's EU agenda

The more harm Trump does to trans-Atlantic ties, the better for China's global interests, the author of a new study on Sino-European relations has said.

Column

Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?

Countries that were once democratising are now moving in the other direction — think of Turkey, Myanmar, Hungary or Tunisia. On the other hand, in autocracies mass mobilisation rarely succeeds in changing political institutions. Think of Belarus, Iran or Algeria.

Opinion

More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies

Industrial energy-intense sectors, outside Germany and France, will not move to the US. They will go bust, as they cannot compete in a fragmented single market. So to save industry in two member states, we will kill the rest?

Latest News

  1. Hungary blames conspiracy for EU corruption rating
  2. Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?
  3. EU lobby register still riddled with errors
  4. Polish backpedal on windfarms put EU funds at risk
  5. More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies
  6. Study: EU electricity transition sped into high gear in 2022
  7. Russia and China weaponised pandemic to sow distrust, MEPs hear
  8. Frontex to spend €100m on returning migrants this year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us