On July 20, the Council of the European Union (EU) officially decided to authorize the signing of the EU-China GI Agreement. This is the first significant bilateral trade agreement signed between the EU and China.
Image from: European Times
Landmark agreements help consumers identify counterfeit goods and help strengthen the protection of EU investments in China
Geographical indications are mainly used to identify the origin of goods. The conclusion of the China-EU Geographical Indications Agreement will provide a high level of protection for 100 geographical indications each from the EU and China in each other"s markets. The agreement will provide important protection for the intellectual property rights of the products and prevent the existence of problems such as translation, transcription or phonetic translation. Moreover, four years after the agreement enters into force, it will extend the protection to 275 GI names on each side.
The date and venue for the signing of the agreement have not yet been determined, Beijing CCTV News reported, citing an EU Council announcement. After the agreement is signed, the consent of the EU Parliament is required before it can be concluded and enter into force. The EU Council expects that the agreement will benefit European producers and should promote the rural areas where these products are produced.
As previously reported by the reporter, the Sino-European Landmark Agreement negotiations began in 2011 and lasted for eight years. On November 6, 2019, in the presence of Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Macron, European and Chinese representatives signed a joint statement announcing the conclusion of the Sino-European Landmark Protection and Cooperation Agreement negotiations.
The text of the agreement, which consists of 14 articles, sets high level protection rules for geographical indications and includes in the appendix 275 geographical indication products of each side with characteristics of their respective regions, such as Anji white tea, Ganan navel oranges, Heilan Mountain East wine in China, and Parma ham, Irish whiskey in Europe. (Photo source: Eurotimes.com)
Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng previously said that the China-EU Landmark Agreement provides a strong guarantee for the relevant Chinese products to enter the EU market and enhance market awareness. According to the agreement, Chinese related products have the right to use the official certification mark of the EU, which is conducive to gaining the recognition of EU consumers and further promoting the export of Chinese related products to Europe.
According to the French magazine La Point, the landmark agreement is the first concrete expression since April 2019 of the idea of a European-Chinese summit to strengthen cooperation between Europe and China, as distinct from the iron-fisted policy adopted by US President Donald Trump around the world.
Epidemic poses new challenges for Europe-China trade and investment agreement
Not only the GI agreement, but also the EU-China investment agreement is progressing smoothly. In June this year, at the 22nd China-EU Leaders' Meeting, European and Chinese leaders reaffirmed their aim to conclude the EU-China investment agreement negotiations within the year and reach a comprehensive, balanced and high-level investment agreement.
It should not be overlooked that the EU and China began to hold negotiations on the investment agreement as early as 2013, and the negotiations have not yet been concluded after nearly seven years. The differences that have existed in the previous negotiations, such as the market economy system, have not yet been fully resolved; the new crown epidemic that has spread around the world this year has brought out the trend of de-globalization, adding new resistance to the negotiations between Europe and China.
Since the spread of the new crown epidemic, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and other countries have introduced legal measures to announce that they will protect companies in specific fields from foreign takeovers, according to Shanghai Yicai and China Belt and Road Network.
According to industry statistics, some Chinese investments in the EU region have seen a decline in enthusiasm. Data from New York-based consultancy Rongding Group show that direct Chinese investment in the EU has fallen for three consecutive years, with a 33% plunge to 12 billion euros in 2019. A report released in April by the Mercator Institute on China in Berlin pointed out that the main reason for the sharp drop in investment is the EU's investment restrictions, and that while Chinese companies still have strong interest in mergers and acquisitions, investment monitoring makes it difficult to get approval for mergers and acquisitions.
On the other hand, the EU expects the eurozone economy to shrink by 13.5% in the second quarter of this year. Analysis points out that the EU may intend to attract investment from Chinese companies through the EU-China investment agreement to help boost the economy.
EU goods have also always been popular with Chinese consumers. According to the latest data from China's General Administration of Customs, bilateral trade between Europe and China reached US$ 1.99 trillion in the first half of 2020. The German newspaper "Handelsblatt" reported in May that China is once again the savior of German car companies! Volkswagen sold 330,000 units in China in May this year, accounting for nearly half of its total global sales. China's huge market demand is also promoting the signing of a trade and investment agreement between Europe and China.
On July 1, 2020, Germany takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union. One of the most important tasks of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's original plan is to build a unified policy towards China within the EU. Merkel had expressed her hope that the German presidency would promote the conclusion of a European-China investment agreement and strengthen the coordination of European and Chinese cooperation with Africa. Although affected by the epidemic, China policy has been relegated from Germany's task list, but the future of Germany and China's economic and trade relations will play a pivotal role in Europe-China relations and future negotiations.
Some German media analysis points out that the tone of the EU's relations with China seems to have a passive tendency to seek stability due to the impact of the epidemic.
It can be expected that the German presidency of the European Union is not a light burden, while the comprehensive cooperation between Europe and China will continue to remove obstacles and develop in depth.