EU-China investment deal ‘not exactly a deal’

A long-negotiated investment agreement between EU and China was more of an “intention” than a deal and it could be a long time before it became a reality, an EU commissioner said on Thursday.

“I will be very honest with you, this deal was not exactly a deal,” Thierry Breton, France’s representative to the EU executive told the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington.

“At the end of the day… it was an intention… not more, not less,” said the former French finance minister, who is the EU’s industry commissioner.

“So I think that the time when the intention will transform into reality may be pretty long,” he added.

He also noted that the deal, sealed to the surprise of many during the last hours of Germany’s EU presidency in December, came during an “interim time in the US” between the Trump and Biden presidencies.

Breton spoke after the EU commission admitted that it was forced to suspend efforts to ratify the pact after a volley of tit-for-tat sanctions between Beijing and Brussels.

The dispute escalated suddenly in March when the EU imposed sanctions on four party and Xinjiang regional officials because of their actions against the Uyghur Muslim minority.

Beijing swiftly hit back with punitive measures on European politicians and academics, including key MEPs who would need to back the pact.

The EU commission handles trade policy for the bloc’s 27 member states and the pact with China was seven years in the making.