China and the European Union have committed to achieving major progress this year in negotiations for a high-level bilateral investment agreement with a view to concluding the ambitious accord next year, according to a joint statement.
The two sides pledged to widen market access, eliminate discriminatory requirements for foreign investors and establish a balanced investment protection framework, according to a joint statement issued after the China-EU leaders' meeting held in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday.
Premier Li Keqiang, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker co-chaired the annual meeting and reached consensus on a wide range of issues, including bilateral ties, global challenges and governance.
They committed to building an economic relationship based on openness, nondiscrimination and fair competition, ensuring a level playing field, transparency and mutual benefit, the statement added.
Two-way trade between the EU and China reached more than $682 billion last year. The EU is China's biggest trading partner, and China is the EU's second-largest trading partner.
Li said the common interests of China and the EU far outweigh their differences, and expanding their common interests will help narrow those differences. Li spoke at a joint news conference with Tusk and Juncker after the meeting.
The two sides will continue to strengthen synergies between the EU strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia, the EU's Trans-European Transport Networks and the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, the statement said, adding they welcome further exchanges in 5G networks and technological cooperation between their business communities.
During the meeting, the EU and China also reaffirmed their commitment to multilateralism. The Chinese and EU leaders also worked on coordinating their positions on regional and international hot spot issues such as the Iran nuclear issue, the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and the Venezuela situation.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Wednesday that the joint statement reflects the resolve of China and the EU to strengthen their unity and coordination at a time that multilateralism is being challenged.
Bernard Dewit, chairman of the Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, said that industrial and trade relations between the EU and China will increase following the meeting, and that China has made great efforts to open its market to European companies.
"China's new Foreign Investment Law, which has just been (approved), will greatly reassure European investors of the commitment of the Chinese government to further protect foreign investments in China," he said.
Wang Yiwei, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China, said in an article published in the People's Daily Overseas Edition on Wednesday that the Chinese and EU leaders' strategic communication on important issues will help foster new areas for bilateral cooperation.
The concerted efforts made by the two sides to cope with the common challenges and develop win-win cooperation will add stability to an increasingly uncertain world, he added.
Hu Yongqi contributed to this story.
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