The conclusion-in-principle that was settled at the end of December ahead of ratification of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CIA) has come after seven years of tough protracted negotiations. The EU has presented it as creating ‘a better balance in the EU-China trade relationship.’ The agreement aims to be pragmatic, in guaranteeing EU investors an unprecedented level of access to different sectors of the Chinese economy, under fairer competition conditions, and according to clearer rules that importantly enjoy greater compliance. On 30 December European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated, “Today‘s agreement is an important landmark in our relationship with China and for our values-based trade agenda.” Taking up the values concept, Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, said “This deal … anchors our values-based trade agenda with one of our largest trading partners. We have secured binding commitments on the environment, climate change and combatting forced labour.” However, it is important to distinguish what the text actually does promise, especially in terms of industrial relations and the degree to which commitments are binding.
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