Both countries launched negotiations for an investment agreement in 2013. According to Katainen, Brussels and Beijing are now taking “the first step forward” in those talks.
“We decided that, in a couple of weeks’ time, the EU and China will exchange market access offers on (the) investment agreement,” Katainen said, adding that this will be presented at a summit in the coming weeks.
Data from the EU shows that China is the bloc's biggest source of imports while also being its second-biggest export market. On average, both countries trade over 1 billion euros ($1.16 billion) a day.
“We concentrated on (a) multilateral trading system for obvious reasons and we agreed to start reforming the WTO (World Trade Organization),” Katainen said.
The European efforts to get closer to China are part of a wider initiative to ensure that international trade isn’t disrupted due to the U.S. administration’s new policy direction. Trump vowed to tackle the U.S. trade deficit when taking office last year. He decided the best way to do that is by imposing new tariffs on imported goods — however, this has upset many countries, including Europe and Canada, traditionally seen as U.S. allies.
In the latest trade row between Europe and the U.S., Trump threatened a new 20 percent duty on cars built in Europe and sold in the U.S.
Katainen didn’t want to detail how the EU would retaliate against those car tariffs, but promised an “adequate” response.
“We don’t want to speculate on this kind of issues, but of course if there is this kind of unilateral, harmful behavior we have to consider seriously and respond adequately as we have done until now. So President Trump wanted to raise tariffs on steel and aluminum and we responded equally,” he said, adding that this is a “bad spiral.”
Trump imposed a 25 percent duty on European steel and 10 percent on European aluminum at the start of June. The EU replied with a 25 percent tariff on a list of American products worth 2.8 billion euros ($3.26 billion).