by N. Peter Kramer
No doubt, the German Presidency will end today (30 December) as Angela Merkel always wanted it to, with an investment treaty between the EU and China. It will mean the icing on the cake of her EU Presidency. The signing of the Comprehensive Investment Agreement with China has to show the autonomy of the EU vis-a-vis the US. But critics are saying the EU is squandering its position as (self-declared) global defender of human rights and labour rights in favour of the German car industry.
China’s use of massive, forced labour of the Uighur Muslim minority could be an obstacle which is difficult to clear for the European Parliament, who have to ratify the treaty. Along with the human rights situation in China in general, and Hong Kong in particular. A Chinese court recently found a journalist guilty of ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ by reporting on the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan. Barbel Kofler, Commissioner of Human Rights in Angela Merkel’s government, stated recently: ‘ I am shocked by the large number of judgments against lawyers, journalists and opposition activists in China in recent days’.
But Beijing says, it will ‘strive‘(!) to implement all international agreements of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on workers’ rights. Is that enough? A great frustration is that China has often not fulfilled previous agreements. The rock-hard guarantees that the EU has been hoping for for seven years, are still not included. It has been forgotten, that China broke international treaties this year. Not only it did ignore the Sino-British Declaration on Hong Kong, it also no longer adheres to the Phase One deal with the United States. President-elect Biden already warned the EU.
Don’t worry, leave it to Angela Merkel, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel. They do not see any problem and are happy to conclude the Comprehensive Investment Agreement with China.