EU agrees mandate in Luxembourg meeting, for China investment talks
(AFP) In a Luxembourg meeting European Union countries agreed Friday a negotiating mandate for talks on an investment protection accord with China, aiming to boost access for EU firms to the world's second largest economy.
EU negotiators will seek an agreement with Beijing to enhance "protection of EU investments in China and vice-versa," a statement said.
An accord to bolster legal certainty for EU investors and reduce the barriers they face will boost investment flows and result in "improved access to the Chinese market," continued the report.
The EU-China trade agenda should focus on investment, along with market access, public sector procurement and intellectual property in the short-term, outlined the statement resulting from the Luxembourg meeting.
The talks are meant to be concluded within two-and-a-half years at the latest, it added.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said earlier this month that while the EU and China were major trade partners, investment flows were "far below what one would expect from two important economic blocs."
EU-China bilateral trade last year was worth nearly $550 billion (415 billion euros), with China enjoying a significant surplus.
An investment protection accord falls well short of the extensive free trade agreements Brussels is negotiating with other major partners such as the United States.
The EU is reluctant to go that far while the Chinese government retains such a major role in the country's economy.