China and the European Commission appeared close to announcing a landmark agreement this week that would make it easier for their companies to invest in each other’s economies. Then it hit another snag: A tweet by a top aide to Joseph R. Biden Jr. signaled that the president-elect was not happy about the deal.
The pact, nearly seven years in the making, remains a top priority of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany because it would give companies like Daimler and Volkswagen better control over their operations in China.
China, which has long been wary of allowing foreign companies greater access, seems eager to strike a deal now before the new U.S. administration can try to rally a united front against Chinese policies and actions, as Mr. Biden has pledged to do.
Ms. Merkel and other leaders have been pressing to complete the deal before the end of the year, while Germany holds the rotating six-month presidency of the European Council. Last week they even circulated 126-page draft that was largely completed except for unresolved issues of wording.
Their efforts, and an expected announcement on Tuesday, have instead run headlong into the growing animosity toward China and increasingly vocal opposition in the final rounds of talks.
In the European Parliament, the pact faces significant opposition from members who say it does not do enough to open China’s economy or to stop Chinese human rights violations.
In Washington, members of the incoming administration openly flagged that they hoped Europe would wait. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and other leaders have been pressing to complete the deal before the end of the year,Credit…Pool photo by Olivier Hoslet Mr. Biden’s choice as national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, wrote on Twitter on Monday that the new administration “would welcome early consultations with our European partners on our common concerns about China’s economic practices.”
The White House also weighed in. A spokesman for the National Security Council, John Ullyot, warned that any commitment from China “that is not accompanied by strong enforcement and verification mechanisms is merely a propaganda win” for the Chinese Communist Party.
The Trump administration has been trying, with mixed success, to encourage allies to follow its example in reducing economic and technological ties with China. As the talks in Europe have gained momentum in recent weeks, President Trump has instead been subsumed with trying to overturn the results of the presidential election, while many top advisers have been focused on the new stimulus bill or the response to the coronavirus.
If a deal comes to pass, it would be an unexpected diplomatic victory for China after a year in which its international standing plummeted over its obfuscation about the pandemic, its aggressive actions in Hong Kong and the South China Sea, and most recently a fierce dispute with Australia .
“The Chinese are keen to weaken any kind of trans-Atlantic alliance by pushing this through,” said Theresa Fallon, director of the Center for Russia Europe Asia Studies in Brussels.
After four years of dealing with a Trump administration that was by turns […]