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Brussels, 18 June 2013
Statement by EU Trade Spokesman on the upcoming EU-China Joint Committee
"I can confirm that EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht will travel to Beijing this Friday for the annual EU-Joint Committee with Chinese Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng.
Furthermore, I can clarify that both sides have together agreed on the Joint Committee's agenda and that the solar panel dispute will not be discussed within the framework of this meeting.
However, I can confirm that confidential technical-level discussions have begun with a team of Chinese experts in Brussels since the start of the week in a bid to find a negotiated settlement. Of course, it is expected that EU Trade Commissioner De Gucht and Chinese Minister of Commerce Gao will discuss this issue in the margins of the Joint Committee.
It is important to underline that the EU's ambition remains to find an amicable solution as soon as possible but I should also stress that discussions have only just begun and therefore we are still at a very early stage in the negotiation process," stated EU Trade Spokesman John Clancy.
The 27th Joint Committee is the annual forum for the EU and China to discuss their trade and investment relations. The meeting on 21 June 2013 will be held in Beijing, and will be chaired by Commissioner Karel De Gucht on the EU side, and Minister Gao Hucheng on the side of the Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China. The previous edition of the Joint Committee was held end of May 2012 in Brussels.
The talks are expected to focus on the preparations for the launch of negotiations for a bilateral investment agreement (IP/13/458), market access barriers in a number of sectors, licensing and market access issues in the area of financial and telecommunication services, and ways to improve the enforcement of, and cooperation on intellectual property rights. In addition the Joint Committee will provide an opportunity to take stock of developments in Geneva regarding as both sides prepare for the WTO Ministerial in Bali later this year.
The Joint Committee meets in the context of a rapidly developing trade relationship where China has become one of the EU's fastest growing export markets, and the EU still remains China's biggest market for their exports. A recent study shows that EU businesses in China are optimistic about the future and their continued profitability in the Chinese market, where European companies are contributing to growth and economic development. Chinese exports are well-integrated into European companies' value-chains and thus contribute to their competitiveness in world markets. European businesses both in China and in Europe remain concerned, however, about a number of issues in EU-China trade relations. Some of these issues concern investment restrictions where China keeps large parts of its market inaccessible. Certain sectors are even fully excluded from foreign investment. China-specific standards and burdensome or opaque licensing procedures create barriers to trade and the public procurement market in China is far from open. The infringement of intellectual property rights is a frequent issue for European companies on top of the general concerns about the business climate in China.
The Joint Committee is an annual dialogue at Ministerial level established after the 1985 Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation between the European Economic Community and the People's Republic of China. The Joint Committee is an important forum to take stock of policy developments in the area of bilateral trade and investment and to review trade irritants arising between both sides. It aims to help removing market access barriers at either side, and to promote trade and investment relations in general. The annual meeting also provides for the opportunity to exchange views on important multilateral and plurilateral trade initiatives and on-going negotiations.
EU-China trade flows
In 2012, China is the second largest economy and biggest exporter in the world. The country now accounts for about 12% of world trade in goods.
Bilateral trade in goods with the EU has gone from €4 billion in 1978 to €432 billion in 2012. That means that the EU and China trade well over €1bn a day.
Since joining the WTO, China has become one of Europe's fastest growing export markets. In 2012 our exports to China increased by 5.6% to reach a record €143.9 billion, and they have more than doubled in the past five years, contributing to rebalancing the relationship. The EU is also China’s main export destination, with €289.7 billion in goods in 2012. This produced a trade deficit of €145.8 billion with China, down by 13.9% compared to the 2010 record of €169.3 billion. Europe´s trade deficit with China is mainly caused by sectors like office and telecommunication equipment, shoes and textiles, iron and steel. Through better market access, European exporters should be well placed to increasingly sell their products on the rapidly expanding Chinese consumer market.
Total bilateral trade in goods reached €433.6 billion in 2012. Trade in services, however, is still ten times lower at €42.6 billion and remains an area full of potential if China were to open its market more.
Investment flows also show vast untapped potential. EU companies invested €17.8 billion in China in 2011, with Chinese FDI into the EU amounting to €3.1 billion in 2011. Yet China accounts for just 2-3% of overall European investments abroad, while in 2011 Chinese investments into the EU only counted for 1.4 % of total foreign direct investment into the EU - so there remains much potential.
For further information
IP/13/458: Commission proposes to open negotiations for an investment agreement with China, 23 May 2013
IP/13/501: EU imposes provisional anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese solar panels, 4 June 2013