China, EU to hold high-level talks on investment deal, reports say

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Dec. 29 (UPI) — China and the European Union could be one step closer to sealing a massive investment deal that could give China access to the EU’s renewable energy market and grant European companies greater access to China’s manufacturing sector.

Negotiations for the China-EU investment deal, which began in 2013, finally could conclude after a discussion of the details Wednesday, the South China Morning Post reported.

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Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Germany’s Angela Merkel and the presidents of the European Council and Commission are expected to hold a call to work out last-minute issues before inking the pact, according to the report.

French President Emmanuel Macron also could be on the call, but France has threatened to withhold approval if the issue of forced labor is not addressed, according to Politico on Tuesday.

Sources told Politico that some progress has occurred on the issue of labor. An unidentified European Commission official said Beijing has committed to “continued and sustained efforts” to ratify international conventions on banning forced labor, the report said.

China has come under fire for alleged use of forced laborers in Xinjiang while targeting the region’s Uighur Muslim minority.

The country also has been mentioned in reports that address North Korean “guest workers” in China-based factories. China has denied rights abuses and has claimed it has not violated North Korea sanctions.

China’s inconsistent track record on forced labor could be a hurdle, but Reinhard Bütikofer, chair of the European Parliament’s China delegation, said the European Commission and Germany aim to conclude the deal before year’s end, according to the Post.

China and the EU are moving closer to an investment agreement at a time when U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has proposed a tougher approach and a coalition against China.

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s nominee for national security adviser, tweeted Dec. 21 that the incoming U.S. administration would “welcome early consultations with our European partners on our common concerns about China’s economic practices,” while referring to the investment deal on social media.