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EU eyes investment safety deal with China
Aggregated Source: Shanghai Daily: Business

THE European Commission yesterday said it was ready to open negotiations with China, one of the European Union's most important trading partners, on an investment protection accord.

The announcement comes amid a series of tit-for-tat trade disputes between the EU and China and as Brussels begins talks with Washington on what could be the largest-ever free trade agreement.

China eyes that development, and similar US initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region, with some concern and has asked the EU to open talks on their own FTA, a prospect Brussels has played down, believing an investment accord would be a more suitable first step.

"An EU-China investment agreement will help deepen our ties and sends the signal that we are firmly committed to building a strong partnership," EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in a statement.

"The agreement needs to secure existing openness and deliver new liberalization of the conditions for accessing each other's investment market," De Gucht said.

"Crucially, it should also improve the treatment of investors and their assets - including key technologies and intellectual property rights," he said.

The commission said an accord would bring together current separate agreements into one text, with the aim of improving the protection of EU investments in China as well as Chinese investments in Europe.

The commission said there was "huge potential" to boost investment ties which are relatively modest considering the size of the overall trade ties, with China counting the EU as its largest export market.

The latest development comes with the two sides at sharp odds over solar panels, steel tubes and telecoms equipment, sparking fears of a trade war.

Analysts said the increase in such tensions could simply reflect the fact that both are feeling the pressure from a sharp economic slowdown and that the underlying relationship is so important that Brussels and China ultimately have every incentive to settle their differences.

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