Joe Biden team ‘concerned’ about EU China investment deal amid push for harder crackdown

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The agreement between Beijing and Brussels would allow the EU greater access to China’s market, analysts say. It is thought the deal will cover a range of sectors including manufacturing, financial services and construction.

Zhang Ming, China’s ambassador to the EU, recently claimed the talks are in their “final stage”.

He told the Financial Times: “Both sides are working towards the objective of finishing the talks by the end of this year.”

However, the agreement has reportedly been criticised over fears it will not crack down hard enough on the issue of forced labour in China.

This year, countries have spoken out about reports of widespread human rights abuses against Uighur Muslim populations in China, including ‘re-education camps’.

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Now, Jake Sullivan, national security adviser to the incoming US president, has called on the EU for “early consultations” regarding the upcoming deal.

He said in a tweet: “The Biden-Harris administration would welcome early consultations with our European partners on our common concerns about China’s economic practices.”

Not all EU officials are keen on hurrying the China deal through.

READ: Joe Biden: China will be ‘America’s greatest problem’ when Biden takes office

Reinhard Bütikofer, a Member of European Parliament and chair of its China relations branch, has questioned whether the EU should “budge” on China’s labour issues.

He said in a tweet: “The issue at stake isn’t whether EU should pursue a coherent China policy. Everybody is in favour of that.

“The debate is rather whether THIS deal at THIS moment is the right answer to the challenge and does send the right signals. Should we really budge on forced labour?

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“It helps EU sovereignty more if we demonstrate that we know when to stand tall to China.”

Other EU officials say the deal would put Europe on a level pegging with the US.

One diplomat told the Financial Times that doing so would enable the two global powers to “discuss jointly how to handle China”.

They also claimed the deal would likely cause China to make concessions on its labour standards.

Meanwhile, one Chinese state-affiliated media figure, Chen Weihua, hit out at Mr Sullivan’s concerns.

The China Daily EU Bureau Chief and columnist said in reply to the security official’s tweet that the EU is “seeking strategic autonomy rather than Washington permission as in the past”.

It is thought that both China and the EU have agreed on so-called ‘level playing field’ terms under the deal, which help regulate fair business competition.

Such rules have proved to be a point of relentless contention in the EU’s trade deal talks with the UK.

Meanwhile, unresolved parts of the deal – as of late last week – included aforementioned labour rights.

According to reports, China wants to be able to invest various parts of the EU economy under the deal, including its energy sector.

Meanwhile, analysts have speculated recently as to how the incoming Biden administration will handle China following President Donald Trump’s tough stance.

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