Monday

5th Dec 2022

EU turns from China to India on free trade

The EU is suspending plans for a trade deal with China, while reviving those for a pact with India, in a dispute on Chinese human-rights abuses.

"We now, in a sense, have suspended … political outreach activities from the European Commission side," on ratification of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis told the AFP news agency on Tuesday (4 May).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"It's clear in the current situation, with the EU sanctions in place against China and Chinese counter-sanctions in place, including against members of the European Parliament, [that] the environment is not conducive for ratification," he added.

And the future of the CAI would "depend really on how broader EU-China relations will evolve", he said.

EU leaders and China signed the CAI last December, despite concern on China's persecution of its Uighur Muslim minority, including forced labour and what some Western parliaments have called "genocide".

It has to be ratified by MEPs before it enters into life.

But when EU states blacklisted four Chinese officials involved in the Uighur crimes in March, China reacted with sanctions against five MEPs, an EU Parliament committee on human rights, and an EU Council committee on security affairs.

"Considering the frenzied lobbying of multinationals and the German government for the CAI, it's a huge victory," French socialist MEP Raphaël Glucksmann, who is on China's blacklist, tweeted in reaction to Dombrovskis.

And the EU parliament would have frozen the CAI at its May session even if the EU Commission had wanted to go ahead, Hannah Neumann, a German Green MEP on the human-rights committee, told the South China Morning Post newspaper.

"Given the debate we had in plenary and earlier, in the human-rights committee, I see a majority to put the CAI 'in the freezer', meaning not to deal with it, as long as China upholds its sanctions against elected members of parliament," she said.

In more bad news for Beijing, the commission, on Wednesday, also aims to unveil new restrictions on Chinese state-funded firms buying up European ones in the wake of the pandemic.

China was a "systemic rival", EU anti-trust commissioner Margrethe Vestager told an online conference held by the Wall Street Journal newspaper on Tuesday.

"We want to make sure that we do not end up in a situation where we have a dependency with someone with whom we are in a systemic rivalry," she said.

And foreign ministers from the 'G7' group of Western democracies, meeting in London this week, voiced similar feeling.

"It is not our purpose ... to hold China down," US secretary of state Antony Blinken said.

But he pledged "robust cooperation" with G7 partners on helping the Uighurs, as well as pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

The UK would be "holding Beijing to the commitments that they've made" in international fora on human rights and Hong Kong, British foreign secretary Dominic Raab added.

India summit

At the same time, top EU officials Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, as well as German chancellor Angel Merkel, aim to revive talks on a free-trade pact with India at a video-summit with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi on Saturday.

They also plan to build joint infrastructure projects in the transport, digital, and energy sectors around the world, in a parallel to China's plan to do the same in its 'Belt and Road Initiative'.

Previous EU-India talks stalled in 2013 due to disagreement on technical issues, such as tariffs, patents, and data security.

But according to a draft summit statement seen by the Reuters news agency, the two sides plan to say on Saturday: "We agreed to resume negotiations for a balanced, ambitious, comprehensive, and mutually beneficial trade agreement".

The draft statement did not mention China, but its wording on values sounded like an allusion to Chinese abuses, as well as to its expansionist territorial claims in the Pacific region.

"Our partnership will promote a transparent, viable, inclusive, sustainable, comprehensive, and rules-based connectivity," the draft communiqué said.

"We emphasised our commitment to a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific space, underpinned by respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, democracy, and rule of law," it added.

EU and US join up against China on Taiwan

The EU and its leading powers voiced strident criticism of China at a G7 meeting in London on Wednesday, even as Hungary, once again, tried to gag Europe in Brussels.

Opinion

The EU and WTO: rethinking trade matters

The EU must differentiate between temporary and Covid-19-related action from permanent changes before making any final decisions based on the new EU trade policy strategy.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. Hungary's funds showdown in focus This WEEK
  2. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals
  3. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  4. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  5. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  6. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US
  7. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  8. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us