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EU parliament puts China investment deal in deep freeze

Vote of 599-30 by Strasbourg lawmakers suspends major pact that surprised many, wrapping up seven years of painstaking negotiations

The Louise Weiss building, principal seat of the European Parliament, in Strasbourg. File photo by Reuters.

(AF) The European Union-China investment deal is dead as long as Beijing’s sanctions against the bloc’s parliamentarians and and academics remain, a vote in Strasbourg decided on Thursday.

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

“The investment agreement with China is on ice and will only be unfrozen when China withdraws sanctions against members of the European Parliament,” Bernd Lange, a German member of the assembly (MEP) and head of its trade committee, said.

The EU parliament resolution “demands that China lift the sanctions before Parliament can deal with the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment”. The deal cannot come into force unless ratified by the parliament.

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.

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 among the 27 member states as well as the parliament.


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,” German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, a strong supporter of the pact, said. “We want to reach results with China that are in the interest of both sides,” he added.

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

China rejected the human rights complaints. “China decided to sanction relevant EU entities and individuals on the EU side who maliciously spread Xinjiang-related lies and disinformation and severely harmed China’s sovereignty and interests out of the need to safeguard its own interests,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

Chinese sanctions were a “necessary, legitimate and just reaction to the EU’s moves of imposing sanctions and seeking confrontation”, he said. “Facts are clear on who is making provocations first and who is playing justifiable defence, and who is right and who is wrong.”

Zhao said the China-EU investment agreement was a “balanced and win-win deal that benefits both sides”, adding that early ratification of the agreement is in the interests of both China and the EU. “The two sides should make positive efforts for this to happen,” he said.

With reporting by Agence France-Presse



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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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