China, EU leaders announce 2020 target for investment deal

Leaders from China and the EU have pledged to finalize negotiations for their Comprehensive Investment Agreement next year, announcing their target date and further details about the process during a summit in Brussels, Belgium, on April 9, 2019.

European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang issued a joint statement outlining various objectives for the negotiations, naming “liberalization commitments” as a priority area for 2019 discussions.

Beijing and Brussels launched formal negotiations on the proposed investment agreement in 2013 and confirmed its scope in 2016. They have held 20 rounds to date, with the latest taking place in February 2019. That round included talks on market access offers, ISDS, state–state dispute settlement and language involving sustainable development. The 21st negotiating round is slated for June, though technical talks were planned for early April and are also expected in May.

The China–EU investment negotiations are being conducted as a standalone process, which was a notable first for the European Commission at the time that talks were launched. The two sides are not currently negotiating an FTA, though European Commission officials have previously said that the results of the investment discussions could help determine whether to pursue a trade agreement with Beijing, among various other factors.

Leaders said in Brussels this April that they hope to see an “ambitious” investment agreement, including a “balanced investment protection framework” as well as better market access terms than are currently in place. They have announced a “stocktaking” for their next leaders’ level summit, though the dates for this meeting have not been publicly announced.

They also established a “political mechanism” to regularly track the negotiations and provide an assessment of the negotiating state of play before 2020.