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Rising foreign investment fuels EU vetting debate

Rising foreign investment fuels EU vetting debate

Top EU officials request committee to vet foreign bids; EU states, diplomats indicate they will oppose plan; Emerging southern economies gain weight on FDI stage.

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March 9, 2011 12:17 by



PROTOCOL BREACH

Some EU officials say the Barnier-Tajani initiative not only breached protocol by reviving an issue Barosso had dismissed, but also conflicts with a drive by the 27-country bloc to make nroads into investment markets in emerging economies.

The Lisbon Treaty granted the Commission power to negotiate investment treaties with third countries from 2009. Brussels announced last year it wanted such agreements with China, South Korea, India, Brazil and Russia in the hope of helping EU businesses set up production plants and tap markets overseas.

“The EU is trying to invest in a number of emerging countries as we speak,” said Stefan Wengler, director of the Foreign Trade Association, a retail and import federation.

“We can’t then start looking into whether foreign investment should be allowed. That would be preposterous,” he said.

European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, in charge of prying open foreign investment markets for EU businesses, cast doubt on any early progress on an EU investment vetting board.

“That won’t happen next week. Maybe next year,” he joked.

Such quips are getting louder in Brussels and in European capitals. But Tajani and Barnier are also trying to address a real rise in inward investment flows from emerging economies.

The stock of EU businesses and assets held by foreign investors grew by 1.1 trillion euros between 2004 and 2009, rising to 2.7 trillion euros, according to EU data. China and Hong Kong held 32.5 billion euros worth of EU businesses and assets in 2009, more than twice the 14.6 billion euros they held in 2004, while India’s stock of EU investments rose almost tenfold to 5.5 billion euros.

(By Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck. Additional reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Luke Baker and Paul Taylor)



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