EU lead­ers press China pres­i­dent on mar­ket ac­cess, hu­man rights

BusinessMirror - - The World -

BRUS­SELS—THE Euro­pean Union on Mon­day urged China to fur­ther open its mar­kets up to Euro­pean com­pa­nies and prove that it re­ally does want to se­cure an in­vest­ment agree­ment this year with the bloc, its largest trad­ing part­ner.

Af­ter a two-hour video­con­fer­ence, ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, eu Coun­cil pres­i­dent Charles Michel and eu Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent Ur­sula von der leyen said they also pressed Chi­nese pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping on hu­man rights and the need for in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion to tackle the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

As an eco­nomic com­peti­tor to China, the 27-na­tion eu has strug­gled to bal­ance its com­mer­cial

in­ter­ests against its con­cerns for hu­man rights in the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly as Bei­jing has grown more as­sertive in re­cent years.

von der leyen, who leads the eu’s ex­ec­u­tive body that man­ages trade on be­half of the mem­ber coun­tries, noted that trade and in­vest­ment talks have been stepped up but de­spite some re­cent progress “a lot, a lot, still re­mains to be done.”

“The euro­pean mar­ket is open, and euro­pean com­pa­nies must have fair and equal ac­cess to the Chi­nese mar­ket in re­turn,” she told re­porters. Xi did not take part in the post-sum­mit news con­fer­ence.

Cit­ing a lack of op­por­tu­ni­ties in China’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions, it, biotech and health care sec­tors, she said “we see that our in­vestors just face too many bar­ri­ers in these key sec­tors, and for us, with mar­ket ac­cess, it’s not just a ques­tion of meet­ing half­way, but it’s a ques­tion of re­bal­anc­ing the asym­me­try.”

“China has to con­vince us that it is worth hav­ing an in­vest­ment agree­ment,” von der leyen said, ac­knowl­edg­ing the strug­gle in­volved in se­cur­ing one by the end of the year as the euro­peans had hoped.

Turn­ing to hu­man rights is­sues, Michel said the three had a “quite in­tense dis­cus­sion” with Xi, no­tably on China’s restive far western prov­ince of Xin­jiang, where au­thor­i­ties have cracked down on lo­cal Uighurs. Michel said Xi ap­pears will­ing to al­low vis­its into the re­gion by diplo­mats to check what’s hap­pen­ing. Merkel said the de­tails must still be threshed out.

Chi­nese of­fi­cials have re­peat­edly de­nied al­le­ga­tions of geno­cide, forced ster­il­iza­tion and the mass de­ten­tion of nearly 1 mil­lion Uighur Mus­lims in Xin­jiang as lies fab­ri­cated by anti-china forces. They claim that the Uighurs are treated equally, and that Bei­jing al­ways pro­tects the rights of China’s eth­nic mi­nori­ties.

Michel said the euro­peans also un­der­lined that China’s na­tional se­cu­rity law for Hong Kong “con­tin­ues to raise grave con­cerns,” that the re­gion’s au­ton­omy should be re­spected and that “demo­cratic voices” in Hong Kong should be heard.

They also en­cour­aged Xi to help tackle the coro­n­avirus pan­demic—which was first de­tected in the Chi­nese city of wuhan late last year—and con­trib­ute to vac­cine re­search by co­op­er­at­ing with in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions like the world Health or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“it is im­por­tant also to con­tinue un­der­stand­ing the ori­gins of the pan­demic and there­fore we were very clear that it is very im­por­tant to give who all the pos­si­bil­i­ties to lead its in­ves­ti­ga­tions on the ori­gin of Covid-19,” von der leyen said.

The spread of the pan­demic has cre­ated new ob­sta­cles to euchina ties, no­tably what Brus­sels sees as a China-or­ches­trated cam­paign of dis­in­for­ma­tion about the disease that could put lives at risk.

The eu has seen over 142,700 con­firmed virus-re­lated deaths from the pan­demic, ac­cord­ing to a tally by Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity, but ex­perts say all num­bers un­der­count the true toll due to missed cases and limited test­ing.

Yves Her­man, Pool via ap

Euro­pean Coun­cil pres­i­dent Charles Michel (right) and Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent ur­sula von der Leyen at­tend a press con­fer­ence fol­low­ing an Eu-china vir­tual sum­mit at the Euro­pean Coun­cil build­ing in Brus­sels on Mon­day, Septem­ber 14, 2020. Michel and Von der Leyen had talks in a video­con­fer­ence with China’s pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Ger­man Chan­cel­lor an­gela Merkel.

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