At a virtual summit on Monday, the EU called on China to further open its market to European companies if it is to reach a bilateral investment agreement before the end of 2020, while expressing concern about Hong Kong and the minority situation. Uyghur muslim.
Progress in investment and trade negotiations despite growing tensions, especially in Hong Kong: a videoconference with strong economic and political efforts began on Monday 14 September between Charles Michel, Head of the European Council (representing the 27 EU), Ursula von der Leyen, European the President of the Commission, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, and Xi Jinping, President of China.
Originally, this summit in Leipzig with the leaders of the 27 EU countries and their Chinese counterparts would represent a culmination of the six-month German EU Presidency. But due to the pandemic, the meeting is being held, now virtually, in a reduced format.
On the menu of the discussions, which began shortly after 14.00 (12.00 GMT), according to a spokesman: the prickly Sino-European investment agreement, the end of which at the end of the year is considered “possible” by Beijing.
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According to Europeans, this investment agreement should enable their companies to be treated in the same way in China as Chinese companies are treated in the Union. The 27 demand better respect for intangible property, an end to technology transfers introduced by foreign companies in China and excessive subsidies to Chinese public companies.
An expected trade agreement
Will this agreement be signed in December? “There is still a lot to do,” the President of the Commission acknowledged in the press after the virtual meeting. “We are very serious about gaining access to the Chinese market and removing barriers,” said Ursula von der Leyen.
“Overall, cooperation with China must be based on certain principles – reciprocity, fair competition. We have different social systems, but if we are committed to multilateralism, it must be rules-based,” he said. side, the German Chancellor to the press from Berlin.
Invited to France24, Antoine Bondaz, a researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research and a specialist in China, notes not “any really important progress”, except “some progress in matters of reciprocity”.
Sino-European bilateral trade represents more than one billion dollars a day. The EU is China’s most important trading partner, while the latter is the second largest market, behind the United States, for European goods and services.
It is not known what China’s response to European demands has been. There was no joint statement and Beijing’s reaction was not discussed at the post – summit press conference.
Another issue on the table, the climate: while the EU sets a carbon dioxide neutrality target for 2050, Europeans want to push Beijing to strengthen its ambitions by targeting carbon dioxide neutrality by 2060, a peak in carbon emissions.2 from 2025 and by building coal-fired power plants.
“China is an important partner in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. The EU is raising the bar and expecting China to do the same,” commented Charles Michel.
According to Antoine Bondaz, the scope of action of Europeans is still very limited. “They have very little means of direct pressure” on Beijing, he said, adding that “China has not made any further commitments compared to those they had made under the Paris Agreements.”
“Democratic voices in Hong Kong must be heard”
Given this growing backdrop of a growing trade and diplomatic war between Beijing and Washington, the EU seeks to strike a balance and promote its economic interests while asserting its positions on human rights.
“We reiterate our concern at China’s treatment of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, as well as the fate of human rights defenders and journalists (…) one of the key points today is the proposal to visit observers in the affected regions,” Charles Michel insisted.
For Antoine Bondaz, however, it is necessary for these observers to “be able to go where they want and, in particular, to carry out a precise investigation into what are today considered human rights violations”.
The United States has imposed targeted sanctions on political leaders, entities and companies involved in Xinjiang.
The Europeans expressed to Xi Jinping their long-standing concerns about Hong Kong, where the application of a new security law, according to them, constitutes an attack on the freedoms of the semi-autonomous territory. The 27 had already decided to restrict the export of equipment that could be used for surveillance and repression in Hong Kong.
This law “continues to raise serious concerns (…) Democratic voices in Hong Kong must be heard, rights protected and autonomy preserved”, Charles Michel insisted.
With AFP and Reuters