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By David Thomas
     BRUSSELS(MNI) - European Union trade officials are playing down
expectations an April 9 summit with China will produce a meaningful final
communique, as Brussels frets a potential U.S.-China trade deal could leave the
EU isolated.
     Leaders from the two sides are expected to discuss a raft of issues at the
meeting in Brussels next week amid speculation the U.S. and China are nearing
agreement on a deal to put an end to their long-running trade dispute.
     "The benchmark for success is not a joint statement," one senior EU source
said.
     "Certainly we can agree on a joint statement with China, the question is
how substantial will it be."
     Pointing to previous "excellent" statements from past EU-China summits, the
source added: "But few things have actually been delivered."
     EU officials made clear that while preparations for the summit have been
intensive, key areas of tension between the two sides remain on issues such as
protection for foreign investment and WTO reform.
     "Negotiations with China are ongoing over the weekend - more I cannot say,"
an official said.
     Referring to China's recently passed law on foreign investment, the source
said that the legislation "does not address some of our main concerns."
     "It doesn't go far enough on big issues, such as forced technology
transfer."
     "Our main point of concern is that (any such US-China accord) does not
provide undue advantages to U.S. companies to the detriment of European firms."
     But the same official stressed that the U.S. and EU are in agreement on the
need for China to address a number of areas where there are tensions with
western trade partners.
     "We are pushing on the same strands," one official said.
--MNI London Bureau; +44 203 865 3829; email: jason.webb@marketnews.com
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