A new investment deal between the European Union and China has raised concerns that it doesn’t go far enough in curbing the Chinese government’s widely reported forced labor practices.
European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron finalized the trade deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday after roughly seven years of negotiations, the European Union announced in a news release.
Some European politicians criticized the deal for failing to crack down on forced labor in China, Politico reported.
“The Commission has folded on the issue of workers’ rights,” according to German politician Reinhard Bütikofer, who chairs the EU Parliament’s delegation for relations with China.
“It is ridiculous to try selling that as a success,” Bütikofer said.
Bernd Lange, another German member of the EU Parliament, tweeted: “Trade policy does not take place in a vacuum — how the question of forced labour is addressed … will determine the agreement’s fate.”
EU Parliament member Kathleen Van Brempt said she plans on scrutinizing the deal closely.
“Market access, stricter rules on subsidies and state-owned enterprises as well as addressing forced technology transfers are important, but so are human rights and labor rights,” she said.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said in a statement on Wednesday that the deal included “important commitments” to international labor standards.
France threatened to pull its support for the deal last week unless forced labor was addressed.
Over 1 million Uighurs — members of a Muslim ethnic group — are thought to be held in brutal conditions in mass internment camps in Xinjiang, China.
The Trump administration blocks many imports from the region into the U.S. unless companies can prove their products were not made with forced labor.
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