On 28 January, the European Liberal Forum (ELF) hosted a webinar focused on the future relations between the European Union and China, following the negotiations on a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) which was concluded in principle by the two parties at the end of last year.
Joining the panel with other experts was ALDE Party President Hans van Baalen. In his opening address, President van Baalen addressed questions related to the process of the agreement. He noted that it seemed lawmakers rushed to pass the agreement during the last months, but he also underlined the dangers of the dictatorial regime of Xi Jinping during which China has violated international agreements, such as the Sino British joint declaration on Hong Kong, as well as labour and human rights. President van Baalen highlighted the importance of working together with the new US administration to benefit from a strong transatlantic cooperation.
“Human rights, civil liberties and reciprocity are vital to our future relationship with China. These need to be included if the EU wants to sign the CAI as well as the Bilateral Agreement on Investments (BAI) with Taiwan as free democracy. We cannot tolerate China to suppress democracies and the European Parliament should be a tough negotiator. It must play its role when ratifying the agreement because we cannot compromise on these issues,” President van Baalen said.
Marie-Pierre Vedrenne MEP, Vice-President of the European Parliament Committee on International Trade, was also cautious with the bloc’s approach to China. According to her, the European Parliament can only ratify this investment deal if China starts committing to its international obligations and improves minority rights. The latter has to do with the situation of Uyghurs who are consequently suppressed by Chinese authorities. Vedrenne noted:
“We cannot blindly accept an investment deal with China. The current situation is very asymmetrical with EU companies having no access to Chinese markets. The conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) must be met just as human and minority rights. It is crucial to the Renew Europe Group to respect international standards and open the Chinese markets for our European businesses.”
Andrew Small, from the European Council on Foreign Relations, shared his insights as a specialist on foreign relations, saying that this agreement will put pressure on the relations between the European Union and others, like the United States, India, and Japan. According to Small, it is part of the Beijing’s strategy to use this investment deal to undercut the EU-US relationship as much as possible.
“The worst thing that can happen is that it completely dominates the China agenda for Europe over next year and the agenda in international politics. This moment should be used to advance on some other topics such as export controls, investments greening, international procurement and EU’s connectivity agenda,” Small concluded.
You can re-watch the webinar here or below.
Today’s provisional deal on Comprehensive Agreement on Investment EU – China is premature. EU and new US Biden Administration should coordinate as soon after January 20. CAI EU – China ratification by EP should be accompanied by Bilateral Investment Agreement EU - Taiwan (BIA)— Hans van Baalen (@hansvanbaalen) December 30, 2020