Monday, January 18

Europeans in China | Opinion

Presentation of a Spanish food company based in  China.
Presentation of a Spanish food company based in China.

The EU and China have just closed an important investment agreement that will facilitate the entry, activity and expansion of European companies in the Asian giant. The pact, pursued relentlessly for seven years, has received the final push under the German presidency. With him, Chancellor Angela Merkel points out significant achievements on the agenda that she prioritized: the fight against the economic recession, the handling of illiberal populism both externally (the unilateralism presidency of Donald Trump) and internal (the drifts of Poland and Hungary) and this agreement with China.

With it, the same treatment is guaranteed to European companies as to Chinese companies in sectors from which they were excluded, such as finance, health, environment or transport, and the requirement to create mixed companies to access different areas of that traditional market is eliminated. Source of nepotism and corruption. Along with the new transparency requirements in the granting of public subsidies, the limitations on the compulsory transfer of European technology to companies in that country and the commitments of the Communist Government to comply with ILO labor rights conventions, such as the one that prohibits jobs, stand out. Forced.

China is also improving its access to European territory in sectors such as renewable energies, and is trying to consolidate its strategy of earning a certain tolerance for a continent, the European, which can mitigate the US negotiating toughness once Trump’s volatile intransigence has dissipated. Even so, Europe and the US share, inwardly and outwardly, principles that Beijing violates or circumvents in key economic issues, such as intellectual property (against counterfeiting) or arbitrary state aid (especially to public companies).

The incoming Administration of elect Joe Biden has gently but clearly shown its discomfort with the timing of the deal. But it is not a surprise act, since it had been negotiating for a long time and with the public intention of concluding it before the end of 2020; nor free, because it corresponds to the European strategy of braiding a network of bilateral trade agreements (with Japan, Canada, Mexico, Mercosur …) as an alternative to the scrapping of multilateral ism and the WTO initiated by Washington under the dismissed president. Nor is it hostile, since the agreement equates the access of European companies to the Chinese market with that of the United States, Brussels recalls.

The reservations of sectors of the European Parliament for the Chinese violation of fundamental rights make sense; But the progress that the agreement implies in labor rights and environmental policy must also be verified. Matters whose approach is better than yesterday and nothing prevents it (along with others) from being worse than tomorrow.

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