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Published on Jul 10, 2016
The EU is China’s largest trading partner and is second only to the United States in terms of trade with the European Union itself. This relationship is hugely important and is only going to increase in size and importance with time.
President Xi Jinping has visited a number of European capitals in the last few years, including a much-publicised state visit to my country, the UK. There is no doubt, therefore, that EU-China relations are of key importance, but we must not allow this to let us shy away from our differences. This year, for instance, we must come to a decision as to whether or not to grant China market economy status, a decision that is complicated by issues surrounding intellectual property rights in China, the steel dumping crisis and the dominant role that the State continues to play in China’s economy and foreign policy. Beyond trade, human rights violations in China are a huge concern. Everything from censorship of the internet to this week seeing Falun Gong activists campaigning outside Parliament against alleged brutal organ harvesting. Meanwhile, the one—country—two—systems in Hong Kong is under pressure from the mainland, and the militarisation of the South China Sea by the establishment of artificial island platforms are also of great concern.
As negotiations begin on the comprehensive agreement on investment, finding a balance between reaping the mutual benefits of trade with our divergent values and human rights concerns and the bigger geopolitical aims will be necessary but by no means easy for the European Union.