Berlin has toughened up the language in a draft document and inserted stronger demands for better access the lucrative Chinese market for European firms as well as placing a fresh emphasis on “values”. Germany takes over the presidency of the EU for the second half of this year and has set out its policy plans in a new draft paper which replaces an earlier version compiled in March.
Berlin has toughened up the language in a draft document and inserted stronger demands for better access the lucrative Chinese market for European firms as well as placing a fresh emphasis on “values”.
Germany takes over the presidency of the EU for the second half of this year and has set out its policy plans in a new draft paper which replaces an earlier version compiled in March.
Among new elements, the 24-page document says: “We want to develop cooperation with China and to work for more reciprocity in all policy areas.”
The reference to reciprocity follows complaints from German companies that they do not have the same access to markets in China as Chinese companies have in Germany.
Mrs Merkel laid out her plans in a video conference with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang when she made it clear Beijing needed to take action to open up its market and treat foreign companies fairly.
German firms want better market access in China and more legal certainty for investment.
They also complain that the government in Beijing distorts competition with high subsidies.
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Ms Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said: “She highlighted the need for further steps on market access, reciprocity and equal treatment of foreign companies.
“Concluding an ambitious investment agreement between the EU and China is an important element in this process.”
Negotiations on an investment agreement have been underway for six years and should be concluded in 2020.
Ms Merkel told Mr Li Germany wants rules-based and free multilateral trade plus a strengthened World Trade Organisation.
German manufacturers depend on both demand and supply chains from China, their country’s biggest trading partner.
The two leaders also discussed their cooperation on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, human rights, the situation in Hong Kong, investment and trade issues in various economic sectors including public procurement and global economic issues.
The draft presidency document says: “The China policy of all EU institutions and member states should be united and balanced and be oriented towards long-term common EU interests and values.”
The word “values” was omitted in the earlier draft, and its inclusion now could suggest a greater emphasis on issues such as democracy, human rights and autonomy for Hong Kong.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Brussels expected China to ensure investment and trade conditions were fair, to adhere to international pacts, including on Hong Kong, and to be transparent in the fight against the coronavirus.
Speaking ahead of a virtual meeting with EU counterparts and US State Secretary Mike Pompeo, Mr Maas said: “We can only expect China to do this if Europe and the United States pull together on the basis of the common values that still bind us.”
Mr Spahn said: “It’s not about calling globalisation into question – it’s about finding the right degree of globalisation.
“When it comes to face masks and certain medications, we’ve seen that we should not make ourselves completely dependent on the global market.
“Decisions should not be made in China about whether we have protective masks for carers or doctors in Warsaw, Amsterdam or Berlin.”
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier has previously said that the coronavirus pandemic has shown Europe is too reliant on other countries for some medical supplies, and European states should work together to further diversify international supply chains.