The European Union and China announced the political approval of an agreement to open the Chinese market further to EU investors, marking a major step in talks that began in 2013.
The breakthrough in negotiations on an EU-China investment deal signals the bloc’s determination to focus on economic opportunities in Asia even amid criticism of Beijing’s record on human rights. The accord could enter into force in early 2022.
For the EU, the deal risks irking the incoming U.S. administration, which has urged the Europeans to consult with them over China’s economic practices. Failure by the U.S. and EU to forge a common position would give Beijing an advantage as western leaders reassess geopolitical relations in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency.
“This agreement is of major economic significance,” the leaders of the bloc’s two main institutions, Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen, said in a statement on Wednesday after a video conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping. “China has committed to an unprecedented level of market access for EU investors, giving European businesses certainty and predictability for their operations.”