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EU to push China to open economy at April summit - draft statement

EU to push China to open economy at April summit - draft statement
FILE PHOTO: An attendant walks past EU and China flags ahead of the EU-China High-level Economic Dialogue at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo -
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Jason Lee(Reuters)
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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union will seek Beijing’s agreement for deadlines to open up China’s economy at an April 9 summit in Brussels, according to a draft leaders’ statement, trying to coax it into making good on promises to deepen trade ties.

China and the EU will “agree by summer 2019 on a set of priority market access barriers and requirements facing their operators,” according to a six-page joint communique drafted by the EU, which still requires Chinese approval.

The statement, seen by Reuters, said the two trading blocs would set “deadlines for their swift removal by the next EU-China summit 2020 at the latest”.

The statement, which is likely to change, also sets 2020 as the goal for a special treaty to increase investment flows that has been under negotiation for almost a decade.

The communique reflects European frustration over China’s reluctance to allow foreign companies to set up without restrictions while taking full advantage of the EU’s openness, EU diplomats say.

A surge of Chinese takeovers in critical sectors in Europe and an impression in Brussels that Beijing has not kept its promise to stand up for free trade and globalisation have given the April meeting new urgency.

Despite an agenda dominated by Britain’s imminent departure from the EU, leaders will use a March 21 summit to discuss China policy, a first for many years.

It is part of a flurry of high-level meetings before President Xi Jinping travels to Italy and France from this week and the bloc holds a summit with China on April 9.

The joint draft statement is set to be formally released at the summit between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Catherine Evans)

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