On Thursday, Matthew Pottinger said that the deal, made despite China’s “grotesque human rights abuses,” has shocked American politicians on both sides of the aisle at a time when a new U.S. presidential administration is imminent, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), an international group of lawmakers focused on combating threats posed by the Chinese regime.
IPAC said in a tweet that Pottinger told its European Co-Chairs that “Leaders in both U.S. political parties and across the U.S. government are perplexed and stunned that the EU is moving towards a new investment treaty right on the eve of a new U.S. administration.”
‘No Longer Kid Ourselves’ Over China
“There is nowhere for bureaucrats in Brussels or Europe to hide. We can no longer kid ourselves that Beijing is on the verge of honoring labor rights, while it continues to build millions of square feet of factories for forced labor in Xinjiang” Pottinger said, according to IPAC.
“The EU Commission’s haste to partner with Beijing despite its grotesque human rights abuses has removed a fig leaf,” he added.
The Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) pact was made after the Chinese communist regime, according to the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, made commitments to improve the EU’s access to Chinese markets and also to pursue ratification of the International Labor Organisation’s rules on forced labor.
The CAI pact was seven years in the making and was concluded “in principle” at a video conference attended by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and European Council President Charles Michel, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
The White House did not respond to a query about Pottinger’s alleged comments to IPAC.
Pottinger, who played a key role in shaping President Donald Trump’s China policy, has previously criticized Beijing’s predations around the world.
He said that “The CCP’s goal is to coax people and nations into a ‘paradoxical mindset’—through coopting or bullying—that’s ‘conducive to Beijing’s grand ambitions.’”
“By portraying truth-telling as an act of belligerence, autocrats try to badger democracies into silence—and often succeed,” he said.
“It’s a mindset that on Monday says, ‘It’s too early to say whether Beijing poses a threat,’ and by Friday says ‘They’re a threat, all right, but it’s too late to do anything about it now.’”
EU lawmakers have also often condemned the Chinese regime over its human rights abuses, including the use of forced labor and the suppression of China’s ethnic and religious minorities.
On Dec. 7, following von der Leyen’s State of the Union speech in September, in which she said the EU must call out the Chinese regime’s human rights abuses and make decisions on sanctions more efficiently, the bloc decided to establish a global Magnitsky sanctions regime, enabling it to target individuals and entities responsible for human rights abuses.
On Dec. 17, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for EU sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for the abuse of ethnic Muslim Uyghurs and to ban Chinese imports made with forced labor.
Von der Leyen has also previously called out the Chinese regime for failing to uphold its promise under a 2019 deal to allow greater access for European companies or drop its rules requiring investors to share their know-how in Chinese joint ventures.
Nevertheless, she said the EU China pact was “an important landmark in our relationship with China and for our values-based trade agenda.”
“It will provide unprecedented access to the Chinese market for European investors, enabling our businesses to grow and create jobs,” she added.
Both China and the EU are now working on the text of the CAI deal which requires legal review before being put to the EU Council and the European Parliament for approval.
Alexander Zhang and Eva Fu contributed to this report.