EU member countries have given the green light for official talks between the bloc and China on a bilateral investment protection agreement. The accord is to focus on market access and public-sector procurement.
European Union trade ministers on Friday cleared the way for negotiations with China on a bilateral investment agreement, amid hopes on both sides such an accord could improve access to each other's markets.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht told reporters in Luxembourg that an investment deal would be welcome after a series of mutual probes into allegations of unfair trade practices, including investigations into China's solar panel production and alleged dumping prices.
"I think the time is ripe to start the discussions, and then we'll see what will come out of it," Swedish Trade Minister Ewa Bjorling said. "We don't want to have trade wars; we want to have trade peace," she added.
Protracted talks ahead
EU officials suggested talks on an accord could be launched during an EU-Chinese summit in Beijing on November 21-22.
They added that negotiation would have to focus on investment security itself, broader market access and the protection of intellectual property.
Trade between the two sides last year was worth nearly $550 billion (415 billion euros), with China logging a significant surplus.
An investment protection agreement would be a major step forward in economic relations between the EU and China, although it would fall well short of extensive free trade deals Brussels has already signed or is in the process of negotiating with Canada, the United States and other individual countries.
hg/ph (dpa, AFP)