Macron and Merkel shamed for giving credibility to ‘belligerent bully’ with EU-China deal

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This month, the EU and China have concluded in principle negotiations on an investment deal, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron playing an “active role” in driving through the accord. The deal comes amid deep concerns about the Chinese government’s use of its economic clout to enmesh itself in Western countries. A European Commission statement said the agreement is of “major economic significance” and that China has “committed to an unprecedented level of market access for EU investors”.

Beijing has agreed to “work towards” meeting global standards on forced labour.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will join an EU-China leaders’ meeting in Brussels this year – another sign of growing links between the EU and China.

Meanwhile, the UK has moved in a different direction since Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved into Downing Street.

Chinese telecoms firm Huawei has been booted out of the bidding to build the country’s 5G network and work is ongoing to set hard limits on Chinese involvement in infrastructure projects.

In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Australian Liberal Party Senator Eric Abetz fiercely criticised the German and French leaders for pushing for an accord that “gives credibility to a belligerent bully”.

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Mr Abetz said: “It is very unfortunate.

“While I can understand trade should continue, I cannot believe they have done so and engaged in a new agreement when China has got one million of their own citizens in concentration camps.

“I think freedom-loving countries of the world should be pushing for reforms before they engage with Beijing as an equal partner, as China’s behaviour is completely unacceptable.”

He added: “I have no idea why Macron and Merkel pushed for it.

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“They have basically given dictatorship a credibility that is not deserved.

“It was for the whole world to see how China treated Australia in recent times.

“China acts as a belligerent bully on the world scale.

“Why would you give them credibility by signing up to this agreement?

“It defies any logic and any principles.”

The agreement is not only expected to cause friction with Australia but also with new US President Joe Biden, whose administration has already stressed the need for transatlantic cooperation to put pressure on Beijing.

An official in Mr Biden’s transition team said: “The Biden-Harris administration looks forward to consulting with the EU on a coordinated approach to China’s unfair economic practices and other important challenges.”

Meanwhile, John Ullyot, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, said: “Our allies and partners increasingly agree that the obvious approach when dealing with Beijing is ‘distrust and verify’.

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“Any commitment from [China] that is not accompanied by strong enforcement and verification mechanisms is merely a propaganda win for the [Chinese Communist party].”

Rights activists will also scrutinise the deal closely over allegations that China uses Uighur Muslims detained in large numbers in Xinjiang province as forced labour.

Beijing denies the claims.

A backlash began even before the deal was unveiled.

Reinhard Bütikofer, chairman of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with China, branded it a “strategic mistake”.

He tweeted that it was “ridiculous” for the EU side to try to sell as “a success” commitments that Beijing has made on labour rights in the deal.

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