An EU-China investment deal must substantially improve EU firms' position in the Chinese market, and its negotiation must be overseen by Parliament, said MEPs on Wednesday, as EU foreign ministers prepare to consider authorising talks. While welcoming the initiative to substantially upgrade EU-China economic relations, MEPs asked that cultural and audiovisual services be excluded from the talks and urged negotiators to ensure that goods made in Chinese labour camps do not benefit from any deal.

Fairer access for EU firms

Compared to the stable and open business environment Chinese investors find in the EU, EU firms' investments in China are burdened by discriminatory measures such as the requirement to establish joint ventures with Chinese companies, which forces them to transfer strategic technologies to the Chinese partner. Talks should be opened only on condition that China formally commits to negotiating easier access for EU firms to its market, says the adopted text.

MEPs note that China's trade surplus with the EU was €146.0 billion in 2012, up from €49 billion in 2000, and that Chinese firms are showing growing interest in investing in the EU market.

No consent without transparency

As the talks would touch upon highly sensitive EU public concerns, they must be conducted "with the highest possible level of transparency" and be subject to parliamentary oversight, say MEPs, as a precondition for the European Parliament's consent to the deal.

No investment in Chinese forced labour goods

Goods produced in China's Laogai forced labour camps "should not benefit from investments made under this bilateral investment agreement" say MEPs. They urge the European Commission to assess human rights impact of any possible deal.

Cultural exception and IPR

MEPs call for cultural and audiovisual services to be excluded from the market access talks. The deal should also protect public services in the EU and ensure compliance with EU intellectual property rights, they add.

Do a deal with Taiwan too

In a separate resolution, also voted on Wednesday, MEPs also called on the EU to consider upgrading its economic ties with Taiwan at the same time as with China.

Next steps

EU member states are expected to authorize launch of EU-China bilateral investment talks at the end of this month, by approving a negotiating mandate drafted by the European Commission. Once a deal is struck, Parliament's consent will be needed before it can enter in force. Once in force, the deal would replace 26 bilateral investment agreements that EU member states have with China today.

Procedure: Non-legislative resolution, Commission statement