Belgium has ‘a series of major concerns’ with EU-China trade deal
Wednesday, 03 February 2021
Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès. Credit: Belga
There are several positive elements in the agreement in principle between the EU and China on trade, but it still has “a series of major concerns,” according to Belgium’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The agreement, which aims to guarantee companies a stable framework for trade investments in the EU and China, was concluded at the end of December after years of negotiations.
Positive points include the greater access to the Chinese market, the establishment of fairer conditions of competition and the introduction of labour and environmental standards, according Belgium.
However, some elements are lacking, according to Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès. Belgium would like to see the policy “more in line with our agriculture, our sustainable development objectives and our social rights,” she tweeted following a meeting on Tuesday with European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis.
Successful first working meeting with @VDombrovskis to discuss challenges related to the new EU trade policy, which Belgium would like to see more in line with our agriculture, our sustainable development objectives and our social rights. 🇧🇪🇪🇺 pic.twitter.com/SRsLhzZyUA
In addition, Belgium regrets the lack of a chapter on the issue of investment protection, which has been postponed to a later negotiation.
Considered a diplomatic victory for China, the agreement has been vilified by NGOs and the European Parliament. According to MEPs, the agreement endangers Europe’s credibility in terms of human rights, particularly in view of the repression in Xinjiang (Uyghurs), Tibet and Hong Kong.
But European bodies and many capitals defend it, considering that it is not supposed to be an answer to human rights issues and that it is an important step to engage China in the respect of international labour law rules.
In this respect, Belgium is asking the Commission to report regularly on China’s ratification and implementation of International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, and in particular those relating to the ban on forced labour, “which remains a prime concern for our country and its entrepreneurs,” Wilmès stressed.