TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The European Parliament voted Thursday (May 20) to freeze the ratification process on a China investment deal over Chinese sanctions on five EU lawmakers.
The Parliament overwhelmingly approved the joint resolution with 599 votes in favor, 30 against, and 58 abstentions. The motion represents another obstacle for the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) that the EU leadership reached with Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping (習近平) less than five months ago, Euronews reported.
The deal, which followed seven years of negotiations, was meant to increase market access and ensure fair treatment for European investors and companies operating in China. The European negotiators hoped the CAI would create a more level playing field, and it contains provisions on state-owned enterprises and subsidies.
The CAI was has been panned for not having enough commitments on labor rights, especially in light of evidence of forced Uyghur labor in China's Xinjiang. On March 22, the EU imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials and one entity believed to be connected with human rights violations in that region.
Beijing responded by imposing sanctions on 10 European individuals, including five members of the European Parliament and four entities, including the Parliament’s subcommittee on human rights. China also blacklisted officials from the U.S., U.K., and Canada.
MEPs say any talk concerning the CAI “has justifiably been frozen because of the Chinese sanctions,” Euronews said. Parliament “considers the sanctions to be part of an effort to police speech about China worldwide and to determine what kind of speech and discussions would be allowed globally, and see this effort as part of a totalitarian threat.”
Lawmakers used the opportunity to push the European Commission, the main European negotiator of the deal, to “improve the protection of human rights and support for civil society in China.” It also stressed that other trade and investment deals with regional partners, such as Taiwan, “should not be held hostage to the suspension of the CAI ratification.”
In response to the resolution, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the deal is a “win-win” for both sides and asked for “positive efforts” toward early ratification.