Negotiations between China and Europe on reciprocal investment access went better than expected as Beijing stepped up efforts to woo allies of the United States affected by the China-US trade and tech disputes, diplomatic sources said.
Beijing has tried to strengthen such ties amid a spiralling conflict with Washington, with presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump agreeing to meet next week on the sidelines of the Group of 20 leaders' summit in Osaka, Japan.
Officials from China and the European Union concluded their latest round of talks on an investment treaty " the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment " last week in Beijing. The five days of talks " longer than their previous meetings " saw some "good" discussions and progress being made on some of the details of the scheme, a European diplomat said.
The talks also went "deeper than normal" and the parties agreed to hold further meetings each month from July to speed up the process, a European diplomatic source said.
The EU wants more access than is granted by the national "negative list" " sectors off-limits to foreign investors " the latest version of which Beijing is due to unveil at the end of this month. The talks covered sectors China was unwilling to open to the EU, the source said.
A spokesman for the EU delegation said Brussels and Beijing had identified at April's EU-China summit a number of deliverables in trade and investment.
"In delivering, together with the EU, on these important trade and investment outcomes, China can show that it is also, like us, committed to making rules-based trade work," the spokesman said.
On Monday, China and Britain signed GBP500 million (US$630 million) worth of deals during a high-profile trip to London by Chinese Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua.
The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding on infrastructure cooperation in third countries, announced a link between the London and Shanghai stock markets, and agreed to speed up plans for a bond trading connection.
Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan visited Germany from May 30 to June 2, when the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also touring European nations including Germany to persuade allies there to refrain from agreeing to contracts with Huawei, the Chinese telecoms company that is a global leader in 5G technology.
Wang called for closer cooperation between Beijing and Berlin to push global governance in a "fairer and more reasonable" direction. He said China was "a cooperative partner for Europe that it can have equal dialogue with, hold stable expectations for and have trust in".
In addition to the EU, China is reaching out to Japan, the host of the G20 summit. Relations with its neighbour have improved since last year and it has sought advice from Tokyo on how to deal with the Trump administration, according to a Japanese diplomatic source.
The person said Beijing was showing a growing interest in a Japan-led trans-Pacific trade pact that excluded the US, and there was a time frame to negotiate.
The EU has only limited ability to influence trade talks between China and the United States, according to several diplomatic sources. A lack of communication between Washington and Brussels, in addition to their own trade disputes, have made it difficult to share information and offer suggestions.
The China-US economic and technological stand-offs are expected to cast a shadow over the G20 meeting in Osaka on June 28 and 29.
The diplomatic sources said the G20, as a multilateral platform, needed to avoid focusing too much on bilateral issues such as strains between the world's two biggest economies.
It would be "a test" of multilateralism for the G20, one of the sources said.
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