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EU won’t meet China halfway in investment talks: EU trade chief

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union wants to agree a deal with China this year to protect foreign investment and increase investment market access, but it will not meet Beijing halfway, EU trade chief Phil Hogan said on Monday.

Hogan told a conference held by business lobby group BusinessEurope that the EU wanted to see “concrete progress” from China on opening up its markets.

“Meeting halfway will not work for the EU. Our markets are largely open, probably the most open in the world. We have therefore have made it very clear that we expect and are demanding a rebalancing of the asymmetry.”

China and the EU launched negotiations on an investment pact in 2013 and were holding a 26th round of talks due to end on Tuesday after a second exchange of offers in December.

Hogan said the EU and China were making progress in the negotiations, although he was not satisfied with the latest offer from Beijing.

Chinese companies, he said, were already being given equal treatment to European firms in Europe, with fair and predictable laws.

“It’s up to China to level the playing field for our companies operating in their country,” he said.

Hogan spoke after the United States and China concluded a partial trade agreement that will commit China to buying some $200 billion of U.S. goods over two years, but did not address the structural reforms both the U.S. and the EU want to see in China.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)