Politco. 18 May 2021

Below is an article published by Politco. Photo:AFP.

The European Parliament is expected to pass a motion on Thursday pushing to formally freeze the EU’s investment agreement with China, in the wake of what MEPs describe as Beijing’s “baseless and arbitrary” sanctions on EU lawmakers earlier this year.

The draft motion, seen by POLITICO, will also call on the EU to step up coordination with the U.S. to deal with China, while stressing that any trade deals with Taiwan “should not be held hostage” by the deal with Beijing.

If passed, the vote is expected to deal a further blow to initial expectations that the deal — seven years in the making and aimed at opening up the Chinese market — could enter the ratification process in a few months’ time.

According to the draft, which has been backed by the biggest political groupings, the Parliament will vote to urge that “any consideration of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, as well as any discussion on ratification by the European Parliament, have justifiably been frozen because the Chinese sanctions are in place.”

It will also demand that “China lift the sanctions before dealing with CAI, without prejudice to the final outcome of the CAI ratification process,” and says MEPs expect the European Commission “to consult with Parliament before taking any steps towards the conclusion and signature of the CAI.”

The text further calls on the Commission to “use the debate around CAI as a leverage instrument to improve the protection of human rights and support for civil society in China.”

On concerns about forced labor in Xinjiang, the Parliament’s motion will reiterate “its request that the Commission and the European External Action Service swiftly finalise a supply-chain business advisory with guidance for companies on the exposure to risk of using Uyghur forced labour and providing support in urgently identifying alternative sources of supply.”

China imposed sanctions on five MEPs, as well as the human rights subcommittee, after the 27 EU countries approved sanctions on officials in charge of running internment camps in the western, Muslim-majority Chinese region.

In response, China asked the European Union to ratify the investment agreement “as soon as possible” and stop interfering in its internal affairs.

“The China-EU Investment Agreement is a balanced, mutually beneficial and win-win agreement. It is not a gift from one party to the other, but is mutually beneficial. Approving it as soon as possible is in the interests of both sides,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.

Zhao said China “is sincere about developing China-EU relations,” but added that it would stand ready to defend its sovereignty.

“We hope that the European side can reflect deeply from this, immediately stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, enhance mutual understanding through dialogue and communication,” he said.

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