China looks to Portugal’s European presidency to “accelerate” investment deal with Brussels

China is expecting a ‘great big boost’ during Portugal’s presidency of the European Union – accelerating the process of ratification of the China-Brussels investment agreement, which would also “allow more Chinese investment in Portugal”.

Speaking to the press in Brussels over the weekend, senior diplomat Zhang Ming – the head of China’s mission to the EU – said ideally his country is hoping for a deal to be finalised by the end of 2o21/ beginning of 2022.

“We hope that Portugal as it assumes the rotative EU presidency can give a very big boost to the process so that during the first half of this year we can sign the preliminary documents…”

According to this timeline, the documents would then require ‘ratification’ by both country’s parliaments.

Right now, these preliminary documents are in the process of being “scrutinized and translated”, he told reporters.

It is not a case of ‘re-starting negotiations “just that we are dealing with and finalising details”, he said – adding that Portugal and China “are good close partners” and that “Portugal as a Member State will certainly benefit with this agreement”.

As to the nuts and bolts of the deal, Mr Ming said it “will facilitate access by Chinese and European investors to these markets” so that “there will be more European investment in China, and also more Chinese investment in the EU, including Portugal”.

Says Expresso, preliminary consensus for a global EU-China investment agreement was reached late last year “after seven years of negotiations”.

The objective is to “mutually protect European investments in China and Chinese investments in the EU, namely making it easier for investors from Europe to buy stakes in Chinese companies so that it becomes a reciprocal relationship”.

Says the paper, Europe’s 27 Member States however are demanding “greater respect for intellectual property, an end to forced technology transfers imposed on foreign companies in China and excessive subsidies to Chinese public companies”.

The greatest ‘stumbling block to concluding an agreement’ – at least for some Member States – has been ‘the issue of forced labour’, adds Expresso, using extremely diplomatic language for covering fairly major topics.

In the Chinese press, Mr Ming’s message has been interpreted more as a form of generous flattery towards Portugal.

The senior diplomat described the relationship between the two countries as ‘a model’, suggesting “one of the secrets” of this model “is mutual respect”.

“Portugal shows great respect to China, and China shows even greater respect to Portugal. Both of us never intervene in each other’s internal affairs. I think this is one of the secrets,” said Mr Ming.

As to China’s overriding interests, he described these as being “safeguarding world peace and prosperity, upholding multilateralism and improving global governance”.

China is “committed to promoting cooperation, and resolving or managing differences through dialogues rather than confrontation. We reject any destructive attempt to poison international relations”, he said.

[email protected]