Europe looks to restrict public procurement access to China

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Europe is examining plans that would allow individual EU states to veto public procurement deals done by others with China, in a bid to ensure Beijing opens up its market more.

France is leading a drive to introduce a European Union interdiction that could slow the impact of Chinese investment in favourable territories, such as Greece, while bloc-wide trade issues are still being negotiated.

French external trade minister Pierre Lellouche told AFP after talks with EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht on Monday in Brussels that "our ideas have been taken on board," adding that he was "happy" with his meeting.

The European Commission is drawing up legislative proposals expected in July aimed at ensuring greater reciprocity of market access for new public contracts in advanced emerging economies that could also apply to Japan, where the EU has offered negotiations on a free-trade deal after the earthquake and tsunami.

In October, De Gucht raised the possibility that bidding for EU public procurement such as motorway or sports stadia building could be restricted if the same quality of access was not guaranteed in return by some countries.

"I have the feeling that the commission is moving towards a system allowing it to react quickly," Lellouche added, suggesting EU Court of Justice action could be used.

De Gucht's office would not give details of their talks, indicating simply that a public consultation exercise would be launched "in about two weeks."

European businesses often complain about difficulties in gaining access to Chinese contracts in the likes of the telecoms, energy or financial services sectors.

© 2011 AFP

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