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Beijing, 21 June 2013
Remarks by EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht after the 27th EU-China Joint Committee
Let me first thank Minister Gao Hucheng for his warm welcome to Beijing today for the 27th EU-China Joint Committee.
I have met Minister Gao on several occasions before – in particular I have very fond memories of my visit to the 2010 Shanghai World Expo where you were present Minister.
However, it is the first time I meet you in person since you took up your new position as Minister of Commerce. Allow me to congratulate you once again.
Let me say that I look forward to us building a productive and successful working relationship together.
Now, it's clear to everyone that in recent weeks both China and Europe have not seen eye to eye on the one specific issue of Europe's trade defense case on solar panels. There is no point in denying that.
Now, let me cut to the chase - to then allow me to focus on the valuable work of today's Joint Committee.
The solar panel issue has NOT been part of this morning's discussions between us since it is not part of the Joint Committee's agenda.
However, as I made clear through a press statement on Tuesday, technical-level discussions toward a negotiated settlement begun in Brussels at the start of this week and continue now in Beijing.
That said, it goes without saying that Minister Gao and myself will discuss this issue. It is clearly in both our interests to do so.
But a word of caution. It is early days in the negotiation process. This kind of issue is rarely solved overnight. Everyone should be very careful not to jump to any conclusions - one way or the other – simply because there is no hard news on this issue today.
On the contrary, I believe that both sides have now engaged in a sincere way to work towards an amicable solution. That is the good news.
As I have stated time and time again during the course of the investigation, the EU has only one wish: to find a negotiated settlement as quickly as possible on the basis of 'undertakings' that can remove the injury caused by the dumping on our market: nothing more, nothing less.
Let be me very clear again here today in Beijing: Europe wishes for an amicable solution.
Now allow me to move on to the important work of the Joint Committee.
Today's meeting should be a signal to everyone of the importance we both attach to our bilateral relationship.
It is more than one year since our leaders agreed at the EU-China Summit of February 2012 to launch negotiations for an investment agreement as soon as possible.
This is a priority for Europe and certainly from my perspective was top of our agenda today. One month ago, the European Commission, under its authority for EU Trade policy, put forward to the 27 Member States our proposal for a negotiating mandate on an investment agreement. Our Member States must now give 'the green light' when they are ready.
In these negotiations, we are pursuing two main objectives. One being to improve the protection of EU investments in China as well as Chinese investments in Europe, thus improving legal certainty for investors. That will benefit both China and Europe.
But there is another critical element: a future agreement must cover improved access to the Chinese market – addressing important issues like mandatory joint ventures. In short, by reducing barriers to investing in China we would see increased bilateral investment flows.
Better market access and conditions for European companies is really at the heart of our ambition for a deeper, better and more stable trade relationship. Open markets are central to ensure the system of world trade works well for all of us.
It is in this spirit that I raised today market access in a number of sectors related to goods, such as cosmetics and medical devices, as well as licensing and market access issues in the area of financial and telecommunication services.
I would also like to flag that our discussions in respect of multilateral and plurilateral issues will continue over lunch. Let me flag one important topic: the WTO Bali Ministerial in December.
It's clear that both sides recognize that there is still a great deal of work to be done by all WTO members but it is fair to say that both myself and Minister Gao share a determination to do everything we can to make it a success.
Allow me to conclude by saying that today's Joint Committee is really a valuable forum for us to discuss - in an open and frank manner - the issues that matter most to each side.
Allow me to thank Minister Gao once again and say I look forward to our continued discussions and dialogue not only today – but in the weeks and months to come. Thank you.
For further information
MEMO/13/577: Memo on the 27th Joint Committee, 18 June 2013