BFF-42 EU parliament blocks China investment deal over sanctions

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EU-CHINA-TRADE-DIPLOMACY

EU parliament blocks China investment deal over sanctions

BRUSSELS, May 20, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – The European Parliament voted
overwhelmingly Thursday to refuse any consideration of the EU-China
investment deal as long as Chinese sanctions against MEPs and scholars
were in place.

According to the resolution, the parliament, which must ratify the
deal, “demands that China lift the sanctions before Parliament can
deal with the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment”.

In a vote that passed with 599 votes in favour, 30 against and 58
abstentions, the MEPs also warned that lifting the sanctions would not
in itself ensure the deal’s ratification.

“The European Parliament’s decision underlines what I have been
saying for weeks: the investment agreement with China is on ice and
will only be unfrozen when China withdraws sanctions against members
of the European Parliament,” said German MEP Bernd Lange, head of the
trade committee.

To the surprise of many, the European Union and China in late
December approved a major investment pact, wrapping up seven years of
painstaking negotiations thanks to a final push by Germany.

Defenders of the pact see it as a much needed opening of China’s
long-closed economy for European companies, but it is sure to face a
difficult ratification amongst the 27 member states as well as the
European Parliament.

– ‘Reach results’ –

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier maintained his defence of
the investment deal.

China “is the European Union’s largest trading partner and the
United States’ largest trading partner, and thus plays an important
role in the global economy,” Altmaier said.

“We want to reach results with China that are in the interest of
both sides,” he added.

China’s state-run, nationalist tabloid Global Times defended
Beijing’s sanctions in an editorial late Thursday, saying there was
“no way China will lift those sanctions under pressure from the
European Parliament.”

The Global Times accused the EU parliament of acting at the United
States’ behest to contain China, “achieving US strategic ambitions at
its own expense,” while “misleading and deceiving European public
opinion.”

Ties between the EU and China soured suddenly in March after an
angry exchange of tit-for-tat sanctions over human rights concerns.

The EU sanctioned four Chinese officials over suspected human
rights violations in China’s far western region of Xinjiang.

China responded by imposing its own sanctions against European
politicians, scholars and research groups.

“The EU cannot both take the high moral ground and nonetheless go
ahead with this deal when EU entities and elected MEPs and MPs are
under sanctions solely for defending human rights,” Belgian MEP Hilde
Vautmans said.

Adding to the pressure over human rights, some 50 human rights
defenders from China who have gone into exile in Europe, including the
artist Ai Weiwei, asked the EU on Thursday to suspend extradition
treaties with Beijing.

In an open letter to EU leaders, they asked Brussels to freeze or
revoke arrangements made by 10 EU member states, including France,
Belgium and Spain.

These bilateral treaties “not only present a potential threat to
our freedom of movement within the European Union, but to our freedom
of association and freedom of expression, as Beijing may seek our
extradition for statements we make in Europe”, it said.

BSS/AFP/MRU/2315hr