China and EU leaders reached an agreement on Wednesday While criticizing each other’s human rights record and responding to the pandemic to increasingly isolate China, China’s major geopolitical victory has made it easier for Chinese companies to operate on each other’s territory.
However, the landmark agreement faces political opposition from Europe and Washington, which may eventually derail it, which illustrates the difficulty of dealing with authoritarians It is both an economic rival and a superpower in a lucrative market.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Angela Merkel) made the agreement a priority because it is of great significance to German automakers and other manufacturers that have significant operations in China.
The agreement relaxes many restrictions on European companies operating in China, including requirements that require them to operate and share sensitive technologies through joint ventures with Chinese partners.
The agreement is also open to European banks from China and contains provisions aimed at reducing secret government subsidies. Foreign companies often complain that the Chinese government secretly subsidizes domestic companies to give them a competitive advantage.
Hildegard Müller, president of the German Automobile Manufacturers Association, said before the announcement that the agreement will “significantly improve the competitive environment for European companies in China.” “It will be a rule-based global trade and investment framework. Provide new impetus.”
Chinese leader Xi Jinping also made reaching an agreement a priority, authorizing negotiators to make enough concessions to persuade Europeans to move forward.
Before the announcement on Wednesday, there was a video call that included Xi Jinping and the European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen reaching an agreement in principle.
European officials said that a breakthrough was achieved in mid-December, when China made major concessions and agreed to make a firmer commitment to comply with international forced labor standards. China also agreed to increase its efforts to combat climate change.
European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said the deal is the “most ambitious” agreement China has agreed to so far.
Dombrovskis said in a statement on Wednesday: “The value of this transaction exceeds the value of euros and cents, because it connects our value-based trade agenda with one of our largest trading partners. connect together.”
The conclusion of the agreement is now a diplomatic victory for China, and China’s international status in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and its repression in Hong Kong and the mainly Muslim province Xinjiang.
As the final details are finalized, these issues and China’s cautious approach to its true commitment to opening up have become the focus of opposition to the agreement. For the Chinese, this transaction shows that China does not face major diplomatic isolation in dealing with human rights.
Business and economy
China also seems to be eager to reach an agreement. Before Biden takes office in January, calculating closer economic ties with Europeans may prevent the new administration from proposing joint strategies aimed at challenging China’s trade practices and other policies. Hard work.
In his speech on Monday, Mr. Biden said that on any issue related to U.S.-China relations, the United States “is stronger and more effective among countries where we share a view of the future of the world.”
He said that currently, there is a “huge vacuum” in the US leadership. “We will have to regain the trust and confidence of a world that has begun to find ways to work around us or without us.”
The White House also opposed the agreement, but Europeans have no influence on it. The Trump administration has been trying to isolate China and its companies for months-announcing new restrictions on companies linked to the People’s Liberation Army this week-but it has been rejected by countries willing to deal with China.
Europeans decided to ignore the opposition of Biden’s camp, which shows that relations with the United States will not automatically return to the relative goodwill of the Obama administration.
President Trump’s preference for burning bridges with long-time allies has prompted Europe to largely ignore the United States when it reached trade agreements with countries such as Japan, Vietnam, and Australia. European diplomats said this week that although they hope to establish a more cooperative relationship with the Biden administration, they cannot submit their interests to the US election cycle.
European Green Party members said that the deal was not enough to open up the Chinese market, to fulfill previous trade and environmental commitments, or to resolve human rights violations, including forced labor and mass detention of Uyghurs and other Muslims in the westernmost part of Xinjiang.
Opponents may be able to gather enough votes to block the approval of the European Parliament.
Negotiators in China and the European Union have been trying to reach an agreement for nearly seven years, but after Biden defeated Trump in the election, progress suddenly accelerated.
Unlike Mr. Trump, who is often hostile to Europe, Mr. Biden is expected to try to cooperate with the European Union to contain China’s ambitions, but these efforts may take months to materialize.
US law prohibits new members of the government from directly negotiating with foreign officials until Mr. Biden is sworn in on January 20. In an interview in early December, Mr. Biden stated that he plans to conduct a comprehensive review of the US trade relationship with China and negotiate with allies in Asia and Europe to develop a consistent strategy before changing US terms of trade.
He said: “I will not take any action immediately.”
During this period, Biden’s advisers used public statements to warn European officials not to take any hasty actions and tried to persuade them to wait for the benefits of coordination with the new US government.
Mr. Biden’s choice, because National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan, wrote on Twitter earlier this month that the new government “welcomes early consultations with our European partners who share our interest in China’s economic practices.”
In recent weeks, Chinese officials have urged to keep the deal going, especially after the opposition in Europe has made it public.
When negotiations reached a deadlock last week, China’s Ministry of Commerce said in a statement that the agreement will “have great significance for the recovery of the global economy.” It said the two parties must be willing to “meet halfway through,” but China will protect “its own security” And development interests”.
Although the agreement contains provisions on forced labor, Chinese officials have repeatedly denied that the country engages in such practices in Xinjiang or elsewhere, despite evidence to the contrary. The fierce nature of these denials raises questions about how to expect China to fulfill its promise to protect workers’ rights.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said recently: “The so-called forced labor in Xinjiang is a lie.” “You should be held responsible for such vile defamation and be held accountable.”
Anna Swanson Keith Bradsher from Washington and Beijing and Monika Pronczuk from Brussels provided reports.