- "But there is a lack of reciprocity and there is a lack of fairness and that's why we tried last year to accelerate the negotiations in relationship with this investment agreement.
BRUSSELS: One of Brussels' top two leaders has defended the European Union's efforts to reach an investment agreement with China, ahead of summit meetings with US President Joe Biden.
The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, will meet Biden at this weekend's G7 summit in Cornwall, before hosting him in Brussels next week for EU-US talks.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the series of summits, Michel stressed that Biden's efforts to mend ties mark a return to a "strong partnership" after tension under the Trump administration.
And he insisted Europe would not "paper over our fundamental values, our fundamental freedoms and human rights" in its dealings with an increasingly assertive China.
But he defended Brussels' troubled effort to negotiate a "Comprehensive Agreement on Investment" (CAI) with Beijing, which has been delayed by recent rows about human rights sanctions.
"We want to rebalance our economic relationship with China," he said in an interview with a group of reporters late Monday, including AFP.
"In the last years we have decided to facilitate access to our single market," he said, addressing China's recent economic inroads into Europe.
"But there is a lack of reciprocity and there is a lack of fairness and that's why we tried last year to accelerate the negotiations in relationship with this investment agreement.
"I know that there's a democratic debate in Europe on the question of this investment agreement, but I'm convinced personally that what's on the table is a huge step in the right direction," Michel said.
"For the first time we are making a step to facilitate investment by European companies and also, based on this proposed agreement, there are commitments expressed by the Chinese authorities on social rights."