China to hold talks on EU investment pact at its own pace

China

China will hold talks on an investment pact with the European Union at its own pace, raising questions about whether a deal can be sealed by the end of the year.

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that negotiations for the EU-China Comprehensive Investment Agreement, which would give European companies greater access to the Chinese market, have dragged on for six years.

An EU official previously said a deal was close, following a push from Germany, which holds the EU presidency until the end of the year and is the largest European exporter to China.

But the latest comments from the Chinese government suggest otherwise.

China “will hold talks at its own pace with the premise of safeguarding its security and development interests,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a news conference.

His comments echoed those of the Commerce Ministry, which said late Thursday that reaching an agreement would require an effort from both sides to meet halfway.

Wang’s latest comments were also a setback from a day earlier.

On Thursday, Wang denied that the talks were stalled because China made more demands on nuclear power.

“As I understand it, the talks are going smoothly,” he had said.

A senior Western diplomat in Beijing told Reuters that China had asked Europe for impossible things, such as access to sensitive sectors such as energy, water treatment and utilities.

Another major stumbling block is China’s reluctance to ratify international laws related to labor and other aspects of sustainable development, the diplomat added.

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