Deal expected to bolster trade with EU

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The China-EU Cooperation and Development Forum on Geographical Indications is held in Suzhou, Jiangsu province on Friday. [Photo provided to]

Officials and diplomats from China and the European Union on Friday expressed confidence in China-EU pragmatic cooperation in trade, the economy and agriculture, saying that a landmark agreement on geographical indication protections is expected to further maintain the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two sides.

They made the remarks at a forum in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, on China-EU cooperation regarding GI — a distinctive symbol used to identify a product whose quality, reputation or other such characteristics are related to geographical origin.

China and the EU signed an agreement on GI in 2020 after more than eight years of negotiations. As the first and so far the only trade agreement between China and the EU, it officially entered into force in March 2021.

"The agreement demonstrated the Chinese government's determination to protect intellectual property rights and to further open up its economy," said Liu Qibao, vice-chairman of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

It is also an example of joint efforts made by China and the EU to conduct free and open trade, support a rules-based multilateral system and promote an open world economy, said Liu, who is also president of the China-EU Association.

So far, the agreement has enabled the protection of 100 Chinese GIs in the EU and 100 EU GIs in China against imitation and usurpation. The second list of GIs, including iconic names like Peking duck, was preliminarily finalized in December.

John Clarke, director-general of international relations at the EU Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development, had worked as the chief EU negotiator for the agreement.

Clarke said he considered this agreement as his own child and the EU side built up a lot of trust with the Chinese side during the negotiations.

"Trust is the essential ingredient for any successful negotiation. I think we had a very good trustful relationship … against difficult domestic backgrounds sometimes," he said.

Martha Mavrommati, the ambassador of Cyprus to China, said the EU list of GIs to be protected in China includes a sweet wine from her country that dates back 7,000 years, and she is looking forward to the expansion of the list to include more products.

Apart from the economic aspects, the agreement also gives more opportunities for European and Chinese consumers to taste each others' agricultural products, she said.

"The cross-cultural understanding, which will be created through this, is a crucial element for cultivating cooperation and synergies in values," she added.

Bertie Ahern, who served as prime minister of Ireland from 1997 to 2008, said the signing of the agreement and the progress over the last three years indicate new areas and developments in China-EU economic and trade relations. Ahern also mentioned the comprehensive investment agreement between China and the EU, which wrapped up negotiations on schedule but was halted by the EU Parliament in 2021, citing so-called "human rights" issues.

"It is a win-win agreement that will ensure more investment opportunities for enterprises on both sides," Ahern said, noting that it will not only benefit China and the EU, but also the recovery and growth of the world economy.

China and the EU are each other's second-largest trading partners. Official statistics showed that two-way trade between China and the EU hit a record $847.3 billion in 2022, with a year-on-year increase of 2.4 percent.

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