China and the European Union on Wednesday reached an in-principle agreement to further open the Communist country to European investment — rebuffing concerns about the communist nation’s broad human right’s abuses.
EU leaders hailed the pact, which has been in the works since 2013, as a major step forward, allowing foreign investors to pour money into Chinese industries ranging from telecommunications to cars, Bloomberg News reported.
“This agreement is of major economic significance,” European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a joint statement after a video conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday.
“China has committed to an unprecedented level of market access for EU investors, giving European businesses certainty and predictability for their operations,” they added.
While Michel and von der Leyen said the agreement “binds the parties into a values-based investment relationship,” critics have bristled at Europe’s decision to pursue the deal amid mounting scrutiny of the Chinese Communist regime.
This year alone, China has come under fire for covering up the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, squashing Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and forcing Muslim minorities into detention camps.
The incoming Biden administration has suggested it is not totally on board with the economic pact and want to be included in the discussions before it is ratified.
In a tweet earlier this month, Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said “common concerns” needed to be addressed.
“The Biden-Harris administration would welcome early consultations with our European partners on our common concerns about China’s economic practices,” Sullivan wrote on Dec. 21 while retweeting a Reuters report on the agreement.
A Buzzfeed News investigation has uncovered damning evidence which suggests China’s Muslim minorities, including Uighurs and Kazakhs, are being detained in forced labor camps.
The international community has also been fiercely critical of the CCP’s decision to crush Hong Kong’s independence and hide key details about the first coronavirus cases in Wuhan in 2019.
China ranked as the EU’s second-largest trade partner in 2019, behind the United States, with $1.2 billion of commerce flowing between the two regions each day.
As part of the deal, China has agreed to end its “distortive practices” and commit to environmental and labor standards, but some critics believe China has no intentions of following through.
“I would ask the question, are we looking at a level-playing field? Are Chinese investments in the EU receiving the same treatment as EU investments going to China?” Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
“It doesn’t look to me as if it has established reciprocity.”
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