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Talks on EU treaty expected to be held next year

By FU JING and DING QINGFEN  (China Daily)

07:58, November 01, 2012

China and the European Union may start talks on an investment treaty next year, Chinese officials said.

Both sides are "enthusiastic'' and the only delay is from the EU which has to go through a technical process to mandate an institution to conduct negotiations, an official from the Department of European Affairs at the Ministry of Commerce, who requested anonymity, told China Daily.

A Chinese diplomat in Brussels, who also requested anonymity, said both Beijing and Brussels are "seriously committed" to enhancing two-way investment and boosting trade ties.

"We hope the treaty talks start next year and we are looking forward to it," the diplomat said.

Beijing has also requested a comprehensive cooperation plan with Brussels.

Both sides pledged to become each other's largest trade partner by 2015.

The official from the Ministry of Commerce said an investment agreement between Beijing and Brussels will be "of great significance" as it will offer "a stable, convenient and predictable" environment for Chinese and European investors.

Under investment treaties, investors are given equal treatment and their investments are protected.

China has signed such agreements with more than 100 countries and regions, with many from Europe such as Germany and France, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

China has traditionally attracted investment from European companies by offering preferential terms, such as low land prices and tax breaks.

Europe has invested $80 billion in China since Beijing adopted the opening-up policy in 1978.

But Brussels said that this accounts for just 2 percent of all EU investment overseas. "So we need to work on the investment pact to further tap the full potential in China," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said recently.

China is also keen to boost overseas investment amid efforts to restructure its economy.

The country's investment in the EU rose from just $100 million in 2003 to $4.3 billion in 2011.

Premier Wen Jiabao said in September in Brussels that China is a "responsible long-term investor" in Europe and he urged both sides to find ways to boost investment.

At the summit of European leaders in October, Beijing-Brussels relations were on the agenda. Barroso said then that they were working closely on an investment agreement.

European Council President Herman van Rompuy said that "we will come back to this issue early next spring to best prepare the next summit, which should take place in China in the autumn of 2013". Talks on an investment agreement are expected to be under way by then.

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