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EU pleads for greater market access in China

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(BRUSSELS) - The European Union's trade chief urged China on Tuesday to ease market restrictions to European investors to break a "fundamental imbalance" between the two economic giants.

"While Chinese investment into Europe is increasing important sectors in China remain closed or restricted to EU investors," EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in a prepared speech.

"This is a significant impediment to the realisation of economic gains on both sides," he told a seminar on EU business in China.

"The fundamental imbalance between our openness and China's restrictiveness plays into the hands of those in Europe who see Chinese investments as a threat and argue that we should selectively screen Chinese investments into the EU," he said.

Poor market access in China has been a recurring source of friction in EU-China relations.

Last week, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China issued an annual report saying that Beijing was putting up new obstacles for foreign companies wanting to invest in the world's second largest economy.

The business group raised the example of a new government rule that stipulates foreign firms can only own a maximum of 50 percent of a joint venture making components for clean technology cars.

A similar new rule applies for offshore wind farms. Overall, foreign ownership in key industries -- such as the auto, telecommunications, finance and refinery sectors -- remains limited, the grouping said.

The chamber also released a survey of its 1,600 member firms, which revealed that 43 percent think measures adopted by Beijing discriminate against foreign enterprises, compared to just 33 percent last year.

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