European Parliament Votes to Freeze Significant Agreement With China

European Parliament Votes to Freeze Significant Agreement With China

On Thursday afternoon this week, the European Parliament met to decide the fate of their monumental economic agreement with China, which was agreed last year after seven years of discussion. Sanctions and accusation of human rights violations have led to a tension in China-EU relations, putting the crucial deal on hold.

Five months ago in December through a video call with Chinese Prime Minister Xi Jinping, the European Union had reason to believe that they had reached a historic accord with one of the world’s leading powers. Known as CAI, the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, the future is now uncertain due to the parliament’s Thursday decision.

The purpose of the agreement was to improve market access and equal treatment for investors and companies from EU countries that conduct business in the Southeast Asian nation. Creating a balanced practice with provisions on Chinese owned enterprises and subsidies, the deal was meant to achieve a powerful advantage for the EU and China.

However, due to the shocking revelations of the internment camps for the Uyghur minority in northeast China, the EU decided to punish China with sanctions for the first time in decades due to the human rights violations found in the camps. Many countries and leaders around the world have labelled the actions as a ‘genocide’ being carried out by China to exterminate the Uyghur population.

In response to the sanctions, China aggressively administered sanctions against numerous EU politicians and nationals, in addition to blacklisting officials from other EU allies such as the UK, USA and Canada. These sanctions prevented them from travelling to China and conducting business there. This negatively affected the nature of the upcoming ratification of the agreement, voted yesterday in European Parliament, which was easily visible due to the vote tallied.

599 MP’s voted to freeze the deal while only 30 were against. Not only does this prevent ratification of the deal, but it harms countries that are more involved with China than others, such as Germany who rely on China for important aspects of its economy such as automakers.

“While the EU’s sanctions target human rights violations and are based on legitimate and proportionate measures embedded in international law, China’s sanctions lack any legal justification, are entirely unsubstantiated and arbitrary and target the criticism of such human rights violations; whereas the sanctions are clearly an attempt to deter the EU from continuing its work and action against human rights abuses in China,” read the resolution statement after the parliament hearing Thursday.

EU parliament members went further by dubbing China’s actions as “an attack against the European Union and its Parliament as a whole, the heart of European democracy and values, as well as an attack against freedom of research”.

Spokesperson Zhao Lijian of the Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to the EU’s blocking of the ratification to invoke the agreement.

“China has every sincerity in developing its relations with the EU. That said, we will firmly safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests. Sanctions and confrontation cannot solve the problems; dialogue and cooperation is the right way forward,” said Lijian in a statement on China’s official foreign ministry site.

Image Attribution: “European Parliament (Brussels)” by Xaf is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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