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China and the European Union, close to an agreement on investments

Negotiated since 2013, the global agreement on investments between the European Union (EU) and China is on the way to being concluded. The objective, on the European side, is to further open the Chinese market to investment by EU companies, while bringing the rules closer to fairer competition.

The latest version of the agreement was presented on Monday 28 December to representatives of member states and “No one opposed it”, reports a diplomatic source. “The ambassadors welcomed the progress in the discussions. The political endorsement was clear “, relates the diplomat. A video conference between Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, and Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, should seal the agreement definitively before Thursday.

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The last reservations of France and a small group of states – including Belgium and the Netherlands – would therefore have been overcome. They had made the discussions run smoothly in recent days and focused on the “sustainable development” component of the agreement.

These states insisted that China commit to signing conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO), in particular that on the abolition of forced labor, giving a distant echo to the European Parliament’s resolution of December 17 condemning the system of forced labor of which the Uyghur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz minorities in China are victims. “Negotiations have progressed a lot in recent days, in particular because China now seems ready to commit to ratifying the fundamental ILO conventions on combating forced labor,” explains in the entourage of the Minister for Foreign Trade Franck Riester.

“Words and promises”

Several sources confirm that China has finally agreed to commit to signing these international conventions. Will this pledge be enough to convince MEPs, who will then have to approve the text? Nothing is less sure.

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The fear of Raphaël Glucksmann, MEP from the group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, “It is because the Commission and the Member States are content with words, with promises which do not commit the Chinese leaders in any way. Will we be able to ensure the implementation of this commitment? Will it be possible to go and verify, in the field, that the camps are closed, that there is no forced labor? It would not be the first time that a dictator signs an international text without respecting it ”. A text which, still according to the MEP, “Will increase interdependence with China, at a time when we are talking about the need to relocate production chains”.

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