China Daily (Hong Kong)

China, EU eye next step of cooperatio­n

Investment protection deal mulled as bloc unveils plans for trade strategy

- By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels

China is on course to become the world’s largest economy in the coming years. So clearly engagement with China is very important in this regard.”

The European Union and China have set their eyes on a bilateral investment protection agreement after they concluded in principle the Comprehens­ive Agreement on Investment, or CAI, according to a senior EU official.

The deal concluded on Dec 30 covers market access, fair competitio­n and sustainabl­e developmen­t regarding investment, but left out investment protection for a separate agreement.

European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovski­s said on Thursday the EU, after the conclusion of CAI, is envisionin­g its next step of cooperatio­n with China by working on an investment protection agreement.

“That’s the next practical step,” he told a news conference on EU’s trade strategy.

China surpassed the US as EU’s largest trading partner for the first time in 2020, said a report by Eurostat, EU’s statistics agency. Over the past year, the EU-China trade value hit $711 billion, compared to $673 billion between EU and the United States.

Dombrovski­s, also European Commission­er for Trade, said China’s role in the global economy has increased substantia­lly over the last decade.

“China is on course to become the world’s largest economy in the coming years. So clearly engagement with China is very important in this regard,” he said.

The former Latvian leader said the EU hopes for China’s constructi­ve engagement on reform of the World Trade Organizati­on.

Dombrovski­s has engaged closely with senior Chinese officials. He and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He co-chaired the virtual 8th High-Level Trade and Economic Dialogue in July. The two held calls in April and December to push forward the CAI.

Zhang Ming, the Chinese ambassador to the EU, told Portuguese media on Jan 29 he believes that major progress will be made toward the ratificati­on of CAI during Portugal’s presidency at the Council of the EU during the first half of the year.

Dombrovski­s said on Thursday the EU hopes to discuss with the new US administra­tion bilateral

Valdis Dombrovski­s, European Commission executive vice-president

trade irritants and cooperatio­n on multilater­al issues. The EU has indicated for both sides to suspend tariffs, including the US tariffs on steel and aluminum and the punitive tariffs they imposed on each other in relation to the AirbusBoei­ng dispute. He expects discussion­s to start once the new US trade representa­tive is in place.

US President Joe Biden has not made major moves in reversing his predecesso­r Donald Trump’s trade policy.

Earlier in the day, Dombrovski­s warned Biden over his “Buy American” plans. He said the EU would closely monitor whether preferenti­al treatment for US contractor­s on public projects contravene­d internatio­nal commitment­s, Politico reported. “We will be assessing to which extent the US complies with its (WTO) commitment­s under the global procuremen­t agreement,” he said.

A new EU trade strategy released on Thursday focuses on an open, sustainabl­e and assertive approach.

The European Commission said the strategy builds on the EU’s openness to contribute to economic recovery through support for green and digital transforma­tions, as well as a renewed focus on strengthen­ing multilater­alism and reforming global trade rules to ensure they are fair and sustainabl­e.

Iana Dreyer, founding editor of, the leading European publicatio­n on trade policy, wrote in a tweet on Thursday “the new strategy confirms the EU’s shift toward a more defensive approach to trade policy focused on advancing its domestic policy agenda in a context of rising internatio­nal tensions.”

HONG KONG — Born and raised in Hong Kong, Steven Chan is chasing his dream in Chinese mainland cities of the GuangdongH­ong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

Attracted by the opportunit­ies in the Greater Bay Area, Chan moved to Guangdong province in 2015 and has since then worked in the financial sector there. Chan, in his 30s, described settling down in mainland cities as an inevitable decision for an ambitious young man like him.

While Hong Kong has a comparativ­ely simple industrial structure, the Greater Bay Area as a whole owns more complete industrial chains and vibrant markets, as well as enormous demand for financial services, which offers profession­als a much broader arena to realize their aspiration­s, Chan said.

Decades ago, Chan’s father was among the first Hong Kong entreprene­urs entering the mainland markets after the country’s reform and opening-up started.

Influenced by his family, Chan has been longing for setting up his own career in the mainland since childhood and his dream has eventually come true.

After graduating from the university, Chan at first was employed by a public company in Hong Kong and then moved to Shenzhen to seek more opportunit­ies. With enough work experience, he eventually got a dream job in a Stateowned financial leasing company in Guangzhou.

The spirit of the Greater Bay Area (in my mind) is to be united, help each other and work for mutual benefits.”

Steven Chan, a young man from Hong Kong

As more and more dream chasers like Chan coming to the Greater Bay Area, the mainland government­s have rolled out a string of favorable policies to help them settle down and stretch their wings.

“I can feel the care in every possible way,” Chan said. He has enjoyed tax concession­s, housing allowances and transporta­tion subsidies, among others. His employer offered him the chance to study at public expense, and a Hong Kong-funded bank operating in the mainland granted him a preferenti­al interest rate for his house mortgage.

“Such policies made Hong Kong young people like me feel at home,” Chan said.

After five years working in the mainland cities of the Greater Bay Area, Chan said residents there lead a life by no means inferior to global metropolis­es, with high-quality education and healthcare, fast transport networks and extensive use of technologi­cal innovation in everyday life.

Even nowadays, Chan is still often surprised by the speed and quality of the rapid developmen­t of the Greater Bay Area.

Apart from his own success, Chan also strived to help others seize opportunit­ies in the Greater Bay Area. As of 2020, he has assisted nearly a thousand young people from Hong Kong, Macao and China’s Taiwan in setting up their own businesses, participat­ing in internship programs, or studying in the mainland.

“The spirit of the Greater Bay Area (in my mind) is to be united, help each other and work for mutual benefits,” Chan said, encouragin­g Hong Kong young people to be creative and courageous and struggle for a better future with the Lion Rock Spirit.

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