US-China talks blocking concessions to EU, Brussels complains

US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping attend at a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 09 November 2017. US President Donald J. Trump is in China for a state visit from 08 to 10 November as part of his 12-day tour of Asia. [EPA-EFE/THOMAS PETER / POOL]

The ongoing US-China trade negotiations are affecting the concessions Europe is seeking from Beijing to save the bilateral summit next Tuesday, as the Chinese authorities are now prioritising an agreement with Washington, European sources told Euractiv.com.

Europe is not satisfied with the proposals sent by Beijing as they fell short on issues including dismantling market barriers, industrial subsidies and the forced transfer of technology.

Without progress on these issues, member states and EU institutions were against signing a joint declaration with China, European officials insisted, which would be a major setback for the landmark summit.

LEAK: Europe puts pressure on Beijing ahead of EU-China summit

The European Union is ready to refuse signing a joint statement with China at a bilateral summit next Tuesday (9 April), as Europeans request stronger commitment from Beijing on the economy, trade and human rights, according to official EU notes prepared in advance of the summit.

“It is preferable not to have any statement”, the source said.

EU ambassadors were prepared to stop the negotiations on Friday. But the EU accepted the Chinese request to continue negotiating on Saturday as a diplomatic gesture.

However, EU sources were highly sceptical about the possibly of achieving any breakthrough over the weekend.

One of the main reasons is that China is focusing now on reaching an agreement with US President Donald Trump, in an effort to de-escalate the trade war between the two largest economies.

China is not moving closer to EU demands because Beijing is concerned about damaging the  negotiations with the US, a European official explained.

Europe expects that the outcome of the US-China talks will be compatible with the World Trade Organization principles, and will not provide unfair advantage to US firms over European ones.

EU urges China to progress on demands to dispel 'frustration'

The EU will give Chinese leaders a comprehensive list of demands next month to address the growing “frustration” among Europeans, and to improve bilateral cooperation as it reaches a critical junction, various senior EU officials explained on Wednesday (20 March).

The EU-China summit was seen as a crucial occasion to address Europe’s frustration and its growing concerns about China’s ambitions.

Chinese Ambassador to the EU Zhang Ming had said that China would continue to open up its economy at a “reasonable pace”. He added that European concerns will be “gradually addressed”.

However, the bloc is disappointed with the lack of progress seen on the Chinese side to balance trade and economic relations, after years of broken commitments.

“It is time for action and not only words,” a senior EU official said.

Foreign Affairs

The Europeans are also increasingly disappointed on foreign affairs issues.

European Council President Donald Tusk did not want to spend too much “negotiating capital” on this issue during the summit, according to the minutes of the EU ambassadors’ meeting held on Wednesday.

But the disagreements were clear on Ukraine, North Korea, Venezuela, Myanmar and South China Sea.

Only on Iran and Afghanistan do both sides seem to have converging views.

Tusk also wants to raise the issue of human rights on Tuesday, an area where the EU has noted little progress in China.

In order to reach concrete results, China was ready to agree on a clear path to approve the comprehensive investment agreement and the protection of Europe’s 100 geographical indications.

However, the Europeans still hold some concerns on these two areas, as no specific date was agreed on to seal the investment agreement and not all the requested GI were cleared.

Member states support tougher stance toward China despite warnings

EU’s foreign affairs ministers expressed their “full support”on Monday (18 March) to the EU’s new stance toward China, described as “systemic rival”, as the bloc seeks to rebalance its economic and trade relationship with Beijing.

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