The European Union (EU) is to start trade talks with China aimed at removing restrictions on foreign investment and offering improved access to the rapidly expanding Chinese consumer market for European exporters.

The deal is aimed at promoting bilateral investment by providing transparency, legal certainty, and market access to investors from both sides.

The talks are expected to launch at the EU-China Summit next month, and the goal is to complete negotiations within two and a half years.

The two sides are expected to discuss first strategic issues in the EU-China economic and trade relationship at the upcoming High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue (HED) taking place later this week in Brussels.

The European Union and China are two of the largest economies in the world. However, a statement from the EU says it wants to ensure that China "trades fairly, respects intellectual property rights and meets its WTO obligations."

As far as clothing trade is concerned, China is by far the supplier to the EU market, with shipments reaching EUR13.2bn (US$18bn) in the first seven months of 2013.

While this is down 8.4% on the same period last year, it still gives China a 37.7% share of the EU's total garment imports of EUR35bn (US$48bn), according to the latest data from Eurostat.

Plans by the EU to start trade talks with China were announced on the same day (18 October) that it reached an agreement on the key elements of a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada.