“A major gain”

How the president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China views the investment agreement and what it means for Europe. 

Jörg Wuttke, President of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China
Jörg Wuttke, President of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China dpa

China is the EU’s number two trading partner after the USA. The volume of trade increased eight-fold between 2000 and 2019, reaching 560 billion euros in 2019. Direct EU investments in China have totalled 140 billion euros since 2000, with China investing 120 billion euros in the EU over the same period. These figures illustrate how closely intertwined the two economic areas are, and how great their interest is in cooperating further. The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China represents the interests of European industry in China. 1,700 companies and people belong to it. Jörg Wuttke, its German president, has been living in China for over 30 years. We talked to him shortly after the investment agreement was signed.

Mr Wuttke, you were indirectly involved in concluding the investment agreement between the EU and China. How happy are you that the deal has now been done?

Yes, we contributed papers and positions time after time and are delighted about the result. The investment agreement will now give EU investors unprecedented market access. The accord will help create equal competition conditions for EU companies in China, enabling them to buy into key sectors or establish a business there.

The negotiations took seven years. How was the breakthrough achieved?

In May 2020 I still believed the deal to be dead in the water. I did not have the impression that China wanted to open its market any further. But then a deadline was set by the German EU Council Presidency, China’s president decided to give the matter top priority, and at the end of 2020 this resulted after all in more than we had thought possible.

Some observers believe that the EU will benefit more from the investment agreement than China …

This impression is due solely to the fact that the doors to investments in the EU had already been wide open beforehand.

The investment agreement will now give EU investors unprecedented market access.

Jörg Wuttke, President of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China

Did the trade conflict between China and the USA play any kind of background role?

Yes, China has been under huge pressure for the past three years and wanted to demonstrate that it is capable of political action. This is also proven by the free trade agreement that China has signed with 14 other Asian states. This was an initial success. Now China wanted to do the deal with the EU too, which is ultimately a major political gain.

What will happen next?

The wording of the agreement is currently being finalised on both sides. Next, the text will be reviewed by lawyers and translated. It can then be submitted to the Council and the European Parliament for approval. This will probably happen in the fourth quarter, or in early 2022 when France assumes the Council Presidency.

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