Public procurement largely forgotten in the agreement between Europe and China

After seven long years of negotiations and dead time, the European Union and China have just reached an agreement in principle on investments between the two powers. This treaty, the technical finalization of which could take several months and which will then have to be ratified by the European Parliament, must in particular guarantee the companies of the Old Continent respect for intellectual property, put an end to forced technology transfers, and strengthen the transparency of subsidies granted by Beijing to its local champions. “Enough to rebalance the game of competition for our entrepreneurs based in China,” says the Commission. Beijing has also pledged to sign the convention on forced labor of the International Labor Organization (ILO), while hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, a Muslim minority in Xinjiang, are said to be forcibly working in the cotton fields.

An agreement which, unfortunately, excludes from its scope the whole question of access to public markets. However, the asymmetry in this matter is even more glaring. On the one hand, a Europe open to the four winds, prohibiting any form of discrimination against companies from third countries, when it comes to sharing one of the most appetizing pies. Construction of roads, schools, hospitals, renewal of car fleets, purchase of new PCs, consulting assignments, pens … Each year, the administrations and local communities of the 27 thus place orders for up to 2,400 Billions of Euro’s ! And on the other, a shuttered China, playing the card of protectionism to the limit, where it is almost impossible for a company flying the foreign flag to hope to win the slightest public tender. And which uses its juicy public markets (1400 billion euros in 2013) to feed its most promising companies.

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CREDIT: LAURA ACQUAVIVABy Christophe Donner

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