European Commission in Brussels | Pixabay

Beijing: China and the European Union have reached an ‘in principle’ agreement on a bilateral investment deal, the South China Morning Post reported, citing a high-level diplomatic official in Brussels it didn’t name.

Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are understood to be in agreement for the deal to move forward, the SCMP said. Germany has said the agreement would be discussed among the 27 representatives of the EU bloc Friday, it added.

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If confirmed, the deal — known as the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment — has the potential to reshape economic ties between China and the EU even as political divisions remain. Bilateral trade exceeded $650 billion last year, and the new agreement aims to build on that.

China’s Foreign Ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Friday morning. On Thursday, the country’s Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng told a regular briefing that the two sides had conducted consultations focusing on the remaining issues and had made “important progress.” “Both teams will continue to work hard to achieve the negotiation goals set by the leaders of both sides,” he said.

While the deal represents a diplomatic win for both parties, it will be especially welcomed by Beijing as it offers a chance of rekindling ties with the EU that have grown increasingly cool in recent years.

Brussels has become more vocal in its criticism of China on an array of issues from alleged human rights violations in the mainly Muslim Xinjiang region to its increasing militarization of the South China Sea. The EU has also raised concerns about a new national security law in Hong Kong that’s curtailed freedoms in the former British territory.

Reaching an agreement wasn’t easy. Talks that began in 2013 have been drawn out over provisions to open up China’s market and eliminate what the EU saw as discriminatory practices.

The EU had also been seeking commitments from China on sustainable development topics including labor issues — an area that had become a major obstacle to concluding the deal.-Bloomberg

Also read: Twitter fined $547,000 for breaking EU’s data privacy law


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