China’s commerce minister has warned that “if there’s a problem” with EU’s trade deal with the US, the bloc must do more to ensure it is fair to other countries.
The EU and US have both criticised the deal, which allows free movement of goods, as unfair to China.
Trade ministers from both sides will meet in Brussels on Thursday to finalise the final details of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a trade deal that will be the cornerstone of EU-US ties.
But the two sides have yet to agree on how much the pact will cost, or how it will be structured.
China’s trade minister, Liu Zhenmin, said at the weekend that if the EU and the US do not do more, China would consider other options.
“We should be cautious in our negotiations,” he told a news conference.
“The EU must do its best to ensure that China is not hurt by these negotiations.”
EU foreign policy chief Guido Westerwelle told a briefing on Monday that he hoped for an agreement on CETA that “does not harm our interests”.
He said that the agreement should be a “common platform for cooperation between the EU, China and the United States”, adding that he “cannot imagine a worse scenario than a deal that does not help the EU-China relationship”.
But EU foreign minister Guy Verhofstadt said the EU “categorically rejects” any trade deal in which the US would have an unfair advantage over EU.
“If there’s an agreement in CETA, it will only be based on a fair and reciprocal agreement,” he said.
The US and EU have said the deal will open up new markets and boost economic growth.
The pact also sets out the principles of the EU’s multilateral free trade agreements with Canada and Mexico.
But China has repeatedly called the deals “unfair” and accused the EU of being behind the deal.
Mr Verhofstad said that while he hoped that the two countries would be able to reach an agreement, there was “a clear difference between our interests and theirs”.
The deal was negotiated during a period of intense diplomatic wrangling, with the European Union facing an existential crisis as it struggled to negotiate its way out of a recession, a migrant crisis and an economic slowdown.
EU leaders will meet on Monday to finalize the text of the agreement.
It will be signed on Friday and be ratified on the eve of the summit.
“A trade deal is the foundation of a strong and sustainable European partnership,” said Ms Westerwell.
“That is why I hope that the US and the EU can come together to reach a fair agreement and reach a better future together.”
The EU is also considering whether to sign a “special agreement” with the Chinese in the coming months to protect its interests.
But Mr Verhusden said that it was not the EU that had a vested interest in a “unilateral” agreement that would not be ratified.