STRASBOURG (Reuters) – The EU is seeking to impose an import ban on products of forced labor, the bloc leader said on Wednesday (September 15), in a measure targeting China for its treatment of its Uyghur population.
The announcement was one of many announcements made by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her annual State of the European Union Address, which signaled a more assertive stance towards Beijing.
More explicitly, von der Leyen called on Chinese President Xi Jinping to show “leadership” by detailing how his country – the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases – plans to meet its greenhouse gas targets. climate change before the UN COP26 summit in early November. .
She also described the EU’s plans to establish trade and infrastructure links in other parts of the world – including the Indo-Pacific region where China dominates – to compete with the Belt and Road Initiative. the “Beijing Road”.
The position underscored a hardening of the Western approach to China, which has become an economic power that rivals the United States and the EU while shunning their democratic and social values.
However, Brussels is also keen to present its approaches as independent and less harsh than those of Washington, with which Beijing has more strained relations.
HUMAN RIGHTS “NOT FOR SALE”
On the issue of forced labor, von der Leyen did not mention any country by name, but claims that China is using Uyghurs kidnapped in its Xinjiang region to make products for export become a key issue in relations. EU-China.
In von der Leyen’s native Germany, human rights activists this month filed a criminal complaint against five retailers, including Hugo Boss and C&A, accusing them of profiting from the Chinese state’s abuses of Uyghurs.
Von der Leyen said in his speech to the European Parliament that if the EU firmly supports world trade, it “can never be done at the expense of human dignity and freedom”.
“There are 25 million people who are threatened or forced into forced labor. We can never accept that they are forced to manufacture products – and that these products then end up for sale in stores here in Europe”, a- she declared.
“We will therefore propose a ban on products in our market that have been produced by forced labor. Human rights are not for sale – at any price.”
On the climate, von der Leyen named the Chinese leader, urging him to make concrete announcements on what his country will do to help the world limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius before COP26 in Glasgow on the 1st and November 2.
“The goals President Xi has set for China are encouraging. But we call for that same leadership to determine how China gets there,” she said.
“The world would be relieved if they showed they could peak in emissions by the middle of the decade – and move away from coal at home and abroad.”
Then, in a clear passage to China’s Belt and Road plans, von der Leyen spoke about Europe’s own plan to build trade, infrastructure and supply chain links, starting with the region. Indo-Pacific, which includes much of Asia where China is strengthening its own trade routes, as a “model”.
This “reflects the region’s growing importance to our prosperity and security – but also the fact that autocratic regimes are using it to try to expand their influence,” she said.
“It doesn’t make sense for Europe to build a perfect road between a Chinese owned copper mine and a Chinese owned port. We have to get smarter when it comes to this kind of thing. investments, ”she said.
The EU, she said, will soon unveil a “Global Gateway” strategy which she says will take a “values-based approach, providing transparency and good governance to our partners” to building links around the world. whole to ensure that it is “a mark of trust”. “.
The initiative, she said, will be a “priority” in regional summits, starting with an EU-Africa summit in February.