China rejects reports of hitch in investment pact talks with EU

BERLIN / BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese Foreign Ministry denied on Thursday that talks on an investment pact between the European Union and China had led to complications due to Chinese demands for investments in nuclear power.
Negotiations stalled on the last stretch because China is making additional demands on nuclear energy, the German WirtschaftsWoche reported on Wednesday.
"As far as I know, the talks are going smoothly," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin at a press conference on Thursday.
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"The news that talks have stalled because China has made more inquiries about nuclear power is wrong," said Wang.
He did not deny or confirm that China had made new demands on nuclear power investments.
The issue of nuclear energy is controversial in EU countries, as such investments could bring the sensitive infrastructure under Chinese control.
"China wants to invest in European nuclear power plants and use Chinese technology in this area," WirtschaftsWoche quoted EU sources as saying.
During the negotiations, China had told its European counterparts that it considered its own technology to be more advanced in this area, the report said.
Several EU member states are opposed to nuclear energy or have decided to withdraw from the technology within the next few years.
The EU and China are aiming to reach an investment agreement by the end of the year that, according to German and EU officials, should give European companies better access to the Chinese market.
The EU-China Comprehensive Investment Agreement would put most EU companies in China on an equal footing, potentially a big step in restoring Sino-European ties following the coronavirus outbreak in China and Beijing's crackdown on dissent in former British colony Hong Kong.
The deal could make transatlantic relations with the new administration of US President-elect Joe Biden more difficult.
Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor-designate on Biden's team, tweeted earlier this week that Washington would welcome early consultations with its European partners on "our shared concerns about China's economic practices."
China fears being isolated from the West as the United States escalates its trade war with Beijing and Brussels has taken steps to more closely monitor Chinese investments in strategic European sectors.
According to Western diplomats, other important points in the sealing of the investment pact are sustainable development and human rights issues such as forced labor in China.
Wang, the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, vehemently denied that there was forced labor in China.
"To say that there is so-called forced labor in Xinjiang is to fabricate a lie. Such behavior, which spreads rumors, is despicable and should be condemned," said Wang.
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber in Berlin and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; editing by Nick Macfie and Hugh Lawson)

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