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EU hesitant on free trade deal with China: source
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) May 07, 2013

Even as it seeks free trade deals with the United States and Japan, the EU sees little near-term prospect of a similar accord with China, one of the bloc's most important trading partners, a senior EU official said Tuesday.

The official, who asked not to be named, said trade and investment were hugely important to the relationship with Beijing, the EU being China's largest single market.

The source said Chinese officials had "mentioned again" the issue of a Free Trade Agreement during a visit to China last month by EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton.

The EU feels, however, that an investment accord was the most appropriate next step while an FTA would "not be excluded in the medium- to longer-term," the official said.

Whether China is ready for a "deep and comprehensive" FTA of the type the EU would want was a matter that "we would have to explore," the official added.

The official said the EU had also reassured Beijing that an FTA with Washington would benefit all sides, including China.

The accord was "not aimed at closing the transatlantic relationship" but rather at opening it up, the official added.

Beijing has expressed concerns over what it sees as US efforts to contain its power in Asia and the Pacific, being especially critical of Washington's 'pivot' back to the region under President Barack Obama.

The EU official did not detail the obstacles to an FTA with China but there have been a series of tit-for-tat disputes over market access, most recently in solar panels, and intellectual property rights.


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