Beijing seeks free trade agreement talks with European Union

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Ecns | 8 April 2016

Beijing seeks free trade agreement talks with European Union

Beijing wants Brussels to set the ambitious goal of launching free trade agreement talks in a bid to maximize the potential benefits for both sides while China implements its new five-year (2016-20) social and economic program.

Chinese Ambassador to European Union, Yang Yanyi, delivered that message when she spoke about the Plan at the European Parliament on Thursday in Brussels.

Yang said China’s unrelenting efforts in achieving quality economic growth and substantially improving people’s living standards will help the European Union to deliver a sustainable recovery as well.

"Successfully implemented," said Yang, "the 13th Five-year Plan will put China on a qualitative and more sustainable growth trajectory and further galvanize global growth and facilitate the EU’s effort to set its recovery on a sustainable path, unlock investment, foster productivity and accelerate the process of convergence."

China rolls out its development plan every five years and in March, the new program was approved by the country’s top legislators at the annual session of National People’s Congress.

European Parliament members are curious about how this plan should bring changes to China and affect the economic, trade and investment activities between China and European Union, which consists of a market of up to two billion consumers.

Yang set out the vision, goals and potential benefits for bilateral relations of the program.

Jo Leinen, European Parliament’s Chairman of the Delegation for Relations with China said Yang’s overview of China’s five-year program is "breathtaking."

"I say it is breathtaking because the targets and numbers are encouraging, precise and promising... and the visions in the program will certainly make the development of China greener and opener," said Leinen in response to Yang’s address.

Thanks to China’s efforts in achieving greener and sustainable growth, Leinen said European high-tech and green enterprises will gain more market share in China by exporting their technology and expertise.

"And if you manage to achieve the goals, European companies and investors will have more opportunities," said Leinen.

Yang said China’s durable and intensified shift towards consumption-led growth and upgrading of consumption and living standards of over 1.3 billion Chinese people will lead to rising demand by China for imports of consumer goods and services, and help boost the EU’s exports to China.

And opening up is one of the major visions of China in the coming five years and Beijing will encourage free trade policies with its leading partners, according to Yang.

"The acceleration of the implementation of China’s free trade strategy will boost negotiations on investment agreement between China and the EU as well as moving towards broader ambitions, including China-EU FTA so as to secure long-term access to each others’ markets," she said.

Beijing and Brussels have been busy with investment agreement talks and the negotiators may be able to deliver concrete texts this year. But In spite of Beijing’s urging for the launch of free trade agreement talks, both sides so far have not prepared feasibility reports.

It is reported that the think-tanks of both sides are going to organize a seminar on a free trade agreement in June in Brussels, before Beijing and Brussels hold their annual summit.

But it is still not known whether FTA will be on the agenda, or when the exact date will be. The last summit was held in Brussels in June.

Yang also said that progress in the new type of industrialization, IT application, urbanization and agricultural modernization of China will generate opportunities for European companies to use their technological forte to gain foothold in the Chinese market.

Yang said the new five-year plan represented a marked shift in emphasis from high growth to medium-high rate of growth and to the quality, balance and sustainability of that growth.

She said in the coming five years, China will grow its economy at an average annual rate of at least 6.5 percent, and will move faster to improve or upgrade the structure of industry and launch initiatives that use advanced technologies and can drive industrial development.

source: Ecns