Chinese and European leaders are being urged to show courage and vision and set a timetable to start free trade agreement talks when they hold their annual summit in Beijing next month amid rising protectionism from European Union.
Two influential think-tanks, China Institute for Reform and Development from Hainan province and the Brussels-based Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS), have both published their own research reports after a two-year study, proposing that China and the EU take decisive actions in further releasing trade potential.
"Our research outcomes have evidently indicated that Chinese and European economies will greatly benefit from a free trade agreement if we tap on the potential timely and properly," Chi Fulin, president of the think tank of China told China Daily in an interview.
"I strongly suggest that the leaders of both sides should consider a timetable of talks at their upcoming meeting in Beijing next month and I propose that we should consider year 2020 as a deadline to conclude talks."
Chi's institute and the CEPS organized a one-day seminar in Brussels on Thursday, the first time that both sides could discuss the subject. Before the two sides officially launch negotiations, a joint feasibility study should be conducted, according to the procedure of starting such talks.
"At least, both sides should announce a feasibility study in July at summit," said Chi.
While launching his organization's report, Chi said the CEPS research was "highly technical, in-depth and thoughtful."
Introducing his team's report ``Tomorrow's Silk Road: Assessing an EU-China FTA'', Jacques Pelkmans, senior fellow of CEPS, said strong arguments backed the rationale behind the possible trade deal between the two sides.
"The potential of intensifying China-EU economic trade and investment cooperation is still enormous and such argument cannot be surprising," said Pelkmans.
Chi's team is more decisive in pushing trade talks, which could be combined with the continuing investment negotiations between China and the EU.
"If so, we could try to finish the talks by 2020," said Chi.
Chi's team listed six priorities in trade talks in which early results are possible, and they ranged from deepening customs cooperation, financial services, environment-friendly technologies, e-commerce, infrastructural investment and governmental procurement.
Lv Fengding, Vice-President of the China Public Diplomacy Association also said that politicians of both sides should set a timetable of free trade agreement, which could inject fresh air into the bilateral relationship between China and the EU, with both facing huge tasks of maintaining sound economic growth.
"Especially for the EU, it has faced multiple challenges right now and China is still willing to offer necessary help to assist the EU move out of difficulties," said Lv, who is heading a team of Chinese experts discussing trade talks in Brussels.
"And the leaders of both sides should be visionary to explore new tools for China and EU to deepen cooperation," he added.
In previous years, Lv said China had consistently offered help for the EU to exit its financial and sovereignty debt crisis. And some European Union countries have joined the Asia Infrastructural Investment Bank and the European Union has also responded by seeking a synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and EU President Jean-Claude Juncker's investment plan.
"But the European Union has not always responded properly to China's consistent goodwill," said Lv.
Lv pointed out that the EU has blamed China as the scapegoat for excess steel capacity, which is a global problem. And the European Parliament has ruled in a non-binding resolution that the European Union will not give China market economy status.
"We are quite worried about the rise of protectionism in Europe and I hope both sides take notice of it," said Lv. "And in this context, discussing about free trade talks is meaningful."