Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and EU institution leaders meet in Brussels on Tuesday for an annual EU-China summit set to be overshadowed by differences over trade and investment.
After years of offering free access to its markets, the European Union has said it is losing patience with Beijing over the pace of liberalizing reforms. It also has growing concerns over state-led Chinese companies’ dominance of some EU markets and acquisitions of strategic industries.
Like the United States, many EU countries want to crack down on industrial subsidies and forced technology transfers, although prefer dialogue to the trade war Washington has triggered.
The European Commission set out a 10-point action plan last month, seeing scope for greater cooperation in fields such as climate change, but demanding greater reciprocity, such as access for EU firms to Chinese public tenders.
“The old narrative is absolutely obsolete,” Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen told Reuters.
Beijing and Brussels have been wrestling for weeks over the text of a joint declaration to be presented as the fruit of Tuesday’s summit between Li and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council chief Donald Tusk.
“China aims to have a feel-good summit, whereas we aim to have a meaningful summit, with a meaningful outcome,” Peter Berz, acting Asia director at the Commission’s trade section, told the European Parliament last week.
EU diplomats said on Monday negotiators had made some progress, but were still short of an agreed text. Talks would continue until the summit, due to start at 1 p.m.
China points to a new foreign investment law due to take effect at the start of 2020. It includes provisions to ban forced technology transfers and ensure foreign companies have access to public tenders.
EU officials say the law lacks detail and question how effective it will be in reality in protecting foreign firms.
Li wrote in a German newspaper on Monday that China wanted to work with the European Union on issues including trade and denied Beijing was trying to split the bloc by investing in eastern European states.