Thursday

29th Feb 2024

EU-China trade must not forget human rights, MEP says

  • The report also strongly recommends that the EU arms embargo against China remain intact until greater progress is made on human rights issues (Photo: European Commission)

As European trade with China - the world's fastest growing economy - is on the increase, MEPs are preparing a report urging EU governments to make sure business goes hand-in-hand with human rights and environmental improvements.

In his forthcoming report to be voted on next week, Dutch MEP Bastiaan Belder from the Independence/Democracy group urges the European Commission and EU governments to formulate a "consistent and coherent policy" toward China.

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After EU enlargement in 2004, the European bloc overtook Japan and became China's largest trading partner while China is the EU's second largest after the US.

While acknowledging the importance of the growing economic relationship between the EU and the People's Republic, Mr Belder stresses that it should go hand-in-hand with human rights reforms, political freedom as well as environmental friendly policies.

The report also strongly recommends that the EU arms embargo against China remain intact until greater progress is made on human rights issues.

The arms ban was put in place by the EU following the violent crackdown by China's communist regime against pro-democracy protestors on Beijing's Tiananmen square in 1989, which left more than 2,000 civilians dead, according to Chinese Red Cross numbers.

But many agree with Mr Belder that there is a "lack of progress in the EU-China human rights dialogue", which is meant to be part of the EU-China relationship.

"The main problem is that it is parked in the corner," said Olivier Schott from Amnesty International's EU office. "The human rights dialogue is disconnected from the main political discussions."

Last year France and Germany pushed for lifting the embargo but did not get enough support from other member states.

At the same time, Beijing's anti-secession law, which threatens Taiwan, confirmed some EU capitals' concern for what Chinam might do with European-made weapons.

The MEP's report calls for Taiwan to be allowed better representation in international fora and organisations, "to put an end to the on-going unfair exclusion of 23 million people [the Taiwanese] from the international community."

Internet companies Google and Yahoo are strongly criticised in the document for their "irresponsible policies" for having "bowed directly and indirectly to Chinese government demands for censorship."

The internet's biggest search engine company Google followed the Chinese government's request of not letting China-based users access websites containing critical elements and words such as "Taiwan", "independence", "Tibet" and "Tiananmen."

The report also urges the EU to engage more actively with other western nations regarding China's future, such as the US.

Mr Belder "encourages the European Union and its member states to develop, together with the USA, strategic consensus for dealing with China."

His report comes just a week before the annual EU-China Summit (10-11 September) with European and Asian heads of state to discuss issues such as climate change, energy security, globalisation and competitiveness.

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