BEIJING—The EU's search for PR counsel to help improve its troubled relationship with China has been cancelled without an agency being hired for the lucrative assignment. 

The move comes after the EuropeAid Directorate-General, which oversees the EU's international development and cooperation activities, released the  €4.5m tender earlier this year, in a bid to "deepen political, economic and cultural relationships" with China.

However, yesterday, the EU announced that "no qualitatively worthwhile tender has been received."

When hiring agencies, the EU typically calls for considerable financial information to be provided by participating businesses. Industry sources noted that this may have proved problematic in China. 

It is unclear whether the process will now be restarted, representing a blow to EU attempts to forge a better strategy in China. Previously, the body has been criticised for having "no China strategy at all."

Europe remains China's number-one trade partner, but is wary of increasing Chinese investment in troubled European economies, and has investigated Chinese exports on anti-dumping and anti-subsidy grounds. 

According to pre-tender information, the EU was aiming to accomplish two objectives in China.

First, the EU hoped to "promote widespread understanding and visibility" of the organization as an important partner for the region. Second, it was also seeking to better communicate its policies, values and external relations agenda.

China's markets remain limited to foreign investment. Negotiations for an EU-China investment treaty began this year, focusing on market access, investment protection and equal treatment of enterprises.

The EU's search for PR counsel in Southeast Asia, India and South Asia continues.