EU Jean Monnet Project

The EU-China Relationship in a Rules-Based Multilateral Investment System



Among the biggest economies and traders in the world, the EU and China are important trading partners. China is also a strategic foreign direct investment (FDI) destination for EU companies and Chinese companies are significant investors in the EU. The EU and China have traditionally supported multilateralism in international economic relations and sought to strengthen their bilateral economic ties by concluding ‘in principle’ the negotiations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) on 30 December 2020.

With global challenges that have put increasing pressure on the multilateral trading system and political obstacles for the finalisation of the CAI’s conclusion, the EU trade policy is taking a new direction, focusing on the openness, sustainability and assertiveness in the enforcement of the existing trade rules. In particular, this trade policy is aligned with the objectives of the European Green Deal (EGD), which seeks to diminish EU’s carbon footprint and achieve climate neutrality in Europe by 2050. This new EU approach is particularly focused on introducing EU unilateral trade measures, such as the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, with significant consequences for global supply chains, particularly in South-East Asia. At the same time, in the sphere of investment, the EU continues to pursue the establishment of a Multilateral Investment Court in its attempt to reform the global regime of international investment dispute settlement.

This project investigates these different EU external investment and trade policy approaches and their impact on EU relations with China; their effects on South-East Asia and bilateral relations with the countries in the region, in particular Thailand and Indonesia; as well as the ability of the EU to influence global governance in the fields of investment and trade.


Special attention is given to three themes, which are of key importance for trade and investment relations with China and South-East Asia, and the advancement of the EU international trade and investment agenda:

  1. Multilateral reform of international investment dispute settlement,
  2. Integration of sustainable development in trade and investment, and
  3. Enhancing the rule of law in international economic law.

These project topics are explored through a range of project activities (conferences and seminars), research outputs (policy briefs; two special issues in academic journals in Europe and Indonesia respectively) and outreach outputs for students and broader public (video series on YouTube channel).


  1. To broaden and enhance the understanding of the EU, its investment and trade policy and multilateral efforts among academic and policy communities in select Asian countries (China, Thailand, Indonesia);
  2. To inform EU policymakers about investment and trade policy developments in Asia;
  3. To identify the points of agreement and contention between policy approaches in regard to key project thematic focus areas and provide food for thought for policymakers;
  4. To create a new network of scholars in Asia and the EU, including young researchers, with specialised expertise on trade and investment relations in multipolar world;
  5. To raise the general public’s and civil society awareness of the investment and trade debate from an EU perspective.


The project is carried out by the METRO institute of the University of Maastricht (UM) in cooperation with leading multi-disciplinary researchers from Université St. Louis-Brussels (USL-B), University of Canberra (UC) and Wuhan University (WHU). The project is delivered in the period 2020-2023.



  • Special issue “The Evolving Nature of the Rule of Law in International Economic Law” in European Journal of Risk Regulation, Cambridge, forthcoming in March 2024
  • Special issue “Investment, Trade and Sustainable Development: International law and Policy Perspectives from Indonesia and the EU”, Indonesian Journal of International Law [TBC],
  • Ivana Damjanovic and Nicolas de Sadeleer, European Union’s Foreign Investment Screening: Between Free Movement of Capital and National Security Interests, Australian Outlook, 18 December 2020

Resources: Video Interview Series – YouTube channel

  • Part I: Introduction to international investment law and its reform (Ivana Damjanovic and Nicolas de Sadeleer)
  • Part II: International investment law in its broader context (Michael Faure and Iveta Alexicovicova)
  • Part III: International investment law and climate change

The Fundamentals of International Investment Law - YouTube series

Other activities and resources

Video recording of the online seminar 'EU Green Deal and China'

Maastricht University, 1 December 2021.