Beijing hopes for orderly Brexit, urges EU to open further

BEIJING • China hopes Britain's exit from the European Union can happen in an orderly way and that the bloc will reduce hurdles to Chinese investment and keep its markets open, China's Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

China, the world's second-largest economy, has watched the Brexit process nervously, worried not only about potential market turmoil from a disorderly departure but also about losing Britain's support for free trade within the EU.

"China hopes to see Brexit proceed in an orderly fashion and stands ready to advance China-EU and China-UK relations in parallel," the ministry said in a lengthy policy document on EU ties.

The EU and China are often at loggerheads over trade and other issues, with the EU sharing many of the same concerns as the US about market access, trade imbalances and intellectual property rights protection. The bloc is China's largest trading partner while China is its biggest trading partner after the United States.

The EU has been pressing for better access to the Chinese market for its companies, while China has complained about what it sees as unfair restrictions on Chinese investments in the EU. Despite events such as Brexit, China said the EU has remained committed to integration, pressed on with reforms and played a major role in regional and international affairs.

Beijing has promised to look at the possibility of reaching a "top notch" free-trade deal with Britain post-Brexit.

On trade, China said the EU should ease high-tech export controls on China and facilitate mutual investment.

The government will significantly ease market access and endeavour to foster a "stable, fair, transparent, law-based and predictable business environment that protects the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investment and treats Chinese and foreign firms registered in China as equals", it said.

Separately, British firms in China believe that Brexit could boost business in the Asian giant, according to a survey published yesterday.

Nearly half of 212 British companies that took part in the survey, or 47 per cent, think Brexit could have a positive impact on business if London and Beijing strike a free-trade agreement, according to the British Chambers of Commerce in China. Less than 8 per cent think the opposite. Some 27.6 per cent said they believed continued uncertainty over Brexit would have a negative impact on their revenue in China, while 61.1 per cent said it would have no bearing.

Among the top difficulties that firms face in China, British businesses cited intellectual property rights protection and cyber security and information technology restrictions - including Internet access and the monopolisation of big data.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2018, with the headline 'Beijing hopes for orderly Brexit, urges EU to open further'. Print Edition | Subscribe