Tensions are at breaking between the European Union and China as a trade agreement between the two sides was halted on Thursday. A stalemate between negotiators has arisen as China refuses to lift retaliatory sanctions it placed on EU officials following the EU’s sanctions against Chinese officials for the Chinese Government’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang.
Speaking to WION news, Europe correspondent Stuart Smith said: “This was a deal which took seven years to arrange and then only in a few months was potentially jeopardised.”
But he stressed this halting “is not the final word” adding “MEPs have blocked this saying that the only way they will agree to this deal is if China releases those sanctions on the European MEP’s and other European institutions.”
Mr Smith added: “That thought was already something being considered, in the meantime, the European Commission still needs to do the legal work, the translation of the document.
“So this deal would not have been ratified yet anyway.”
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The European correspondent explained: “The hope from the European Commission and Beijing Ministry of Foreign Affairs is that in the meantime this can be resolved and there won’t be any long-term delays to the deal.”
The WION correspondent explained the deal would “bring benefits to both Europe and China” and that there was a future to the deal.
The European Parliament halted the ratification of the new EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment pact with China until Beijing agrees to lift sanctions on EU politicians.
The deal was agreed upon by negotiators in December 2020 after seven years of talks with Chinese officials.
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The pact aims to put EU companies on an equal footing in China and solidify Beijing’s status as a trusted trading partner with the bloc.
But relations soured when the EU placed sanctions, along with the UK and other western countries, on Chinese officials following the detention of Uyghur Muslims in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang. China responded with retaliatory sanctions on EU officials.
The situation in Western China is considered by western nations to be a genocide as footage and first-hand accounts emerge from inside the centres where hundreds of thousands of the Muslim minority are being held by Chinese government officials.
Reports suggest mass sterilisation, abuse, torture and rape take place inside such centres in what the Chinese authorities call “re-education” centres.
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China refutes allegations and insists the centres are part of an “anti-terror” programme.
The EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment was instigated by the EU because it perceived an “unfairness” between the “investment situation” for European Businesses and yet China could not do the same in the bloc.
Most of the dispute is reportedly between the European Parliament and China rather than the European Commission.
It comes as only 30 out of 599 votes in the parliament are in favour of re-opening trade relationships with China.