European Union presses China on market access, human rights during virtual summit

EU, China to hold talks on blocked investment deal

The leaders announced the official signing of the China-EU agreement on geographical indications, stated their commitment to speeding up the negotiations of the China-EU Bilateral Investment Treaty to achieve the goal of concluding the negotiations within this year, chose to establish a China-EU High Level Environment and Climate Dialogue and a China-EU High Level Digital Cooperation Dialogue, and to forge China-EU green and digital partnerships.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the profound changes unseen in a century, and mankind is standing at a new crossroads, he said.

Merkel added that the relationship with China is also about protecting Europe's strategic interests.

"Even if there is a political objective to accelerate negotiations and conclude them by the end of the year, we will have this only if it is something worth having", an European Union official said.

They also encouraged Xi to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic - which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan late a year ago - and contribute to vaccine research by cooperating with global organisations such as the World Health Organization.

"We put on pressure.to make progress on the investment agreement", Dr Merkel told reporters, after a video summit with Mr Xi.

Chinese and European leaders agreed Monday in a virtual summit to speed up and conclude negotiations on a bilateral investment agreement within the year in a sign that the two sides are willing to cooperate in the pandemic recovery despite disputes over technology and geopolitical tensions.

However, she emphasised that "there is still a lot that remains to be done in other important and hard chapters of the agreement, particularly in two areas: market access and sustainable development".

Still, the bloc is keen to show economic rewards from a policy approach toward China that is less confrontational than that pursued by US President Donald Trump's administration.

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The two trading partners remain at odds however over Hong Kong. Beijing must follow up offers of fairer economic policies with actual concessions, they said.

Personnel exchanges must be resumed in an orderly manner, and the cross-border movement of goods should be facilitated, Xi said.

Turning to human rights issues, Michel said the three had a "quite intense discussion" with Xi, notably on China's restive far western province of Xinjiang, where authorities have cracked down on local Uighurs.

"Overall, cooperation with China must be based on certain principles - reciprocity, fair competition". It is imperative for Europe and China to strengthen cooperation, jointly safeguard multilateralism, resist unilateralism and protectionism, and respond more effectively to various global challenges, which is in line with the common interests of both Europe and China and the worldwide community.

In the field of the economy and trade, the cornerstone of China-EU relations, Beijing and Brussels share a promising future.

Furthermore, the two sides should work together to crack open new areas for cooperation, as Xi proposed at the 22nd China-EU leaders' meeting in June, to forge a green and digital partnership between China and the EU by fostering cooperation in clean energy, sustainable finance, e-commerce and cloud computing.

As an economic competitor to China, the 27-nation European Union has struggled to balance its commercial interests against its concerns for human rights in the country, particularly as Beijing has grown more assertive in recent years.

The leaders also exchanged views on global and regional issues including the Afghanistan and the Iranian nuclear issues, agreeing to strengthen communication and coordination and to make joint efforts in maintaining worldwide and regional security and stability.

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