08:58 GMT21 January 2021
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    A senior Chinese official has voiced optimism after an EU-China agreement in principle was struck ahead of a 31 December deadline. The comments come amid sharp criticism from a senior Russian official over the Trump administration's "unsubstantiated" sanctions diplomacy.

    An investment deal between China and the European Union, which is seven years in the making, could conclude soon, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said at a meeting of envoys in Beijing on Monday.

    The talks come as officials on both sides remain deadlocked over EU accusations of forced labour camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), which Beijing has repeatedly denied.

    Last week, the EU handed China a series of texts – which have now been made public – detailing numerous concerns about alleged forced human labour in Xinjiang, despite Beijing reiterating that the measures are due to ongoing terrorism efforts against separatists.

    “It has once again been proved that China-EU cooperation is far greater than competition, and [areas of] consensus are far greater than differences. China and Europe are partners in mutually beneficial cooperation, and the relationship between the two sides is full of vitality,” Wang said in a statement.

    A final Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) would boost China-EU relations amid a massive trade and diplomatic row with the United States, the South China Morning Post reported.

    But Beijing has refused to ratify standards from the International Labour Organisation, which the European Parliament says are vital for inking the CAI, EU officials reportedly said.

    “How the question of forced labour is addressed in the CAI will determine the agreement‘s fate,” Bernd Lange, European Parliament trade committee chair, Tweeted on Monday. 

    He added the parliamentary committee would “judge the CAI based on the final text and we will take our time to do so."

    But Wang Wenbin, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on Tuesday that the deal should utilise all opportunities for cooperation, but restated China's stance on alleged forced labour in Xinjiang.

    “There is no such thing as forced labour in Xinjiang. Such claims are unfounded. They are slanders and smears against Xinjiang and China,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday.

    The news comes after both parties signed an agreement in September to preserve geographical indications (GI), with over 100 Chinese and EU products set to be protected amid an effort to grow trade between the two economic powers.

    Beijing also inked the $26.2 tn Regional Cooperative Economic Partnership (RCEP) with 15 global Asian-Pacific powers, including Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, South Korea and Japan, making it the largest trade deal in history.

    EU-China In Trade Talks As Washington Sours Ties Further

    The news comes as EU-China trade talks sharply contrast US-China trade relations, which have plunged to historic lows due to the ongoing US trade war, stoked further by Washington sanctioning dozens of Chinese and Russian firms on Monday.

    The Trump administration's sanctions on 103 Chinese and Russian firms are "unsubstantiated," Russian security council deputy chair Dmitry Medvedev said on social media on Tuesday.

    Sanctions on 103 Chinese and Russian firms, which have barred them from buying US goods and technologies for alleged military links, "simply block the international exchange of goods and freedom of trade, and eliminate potential competitors," he added.

    Both Beijing and Moscow called for a "complete abolition of sanctions mechanisms" amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but the global struggle against the virus was "not a priority" for Washington, Medvedev said, adding that making a single list for firms from both nations was "very revealing."

    "And this clearly has nothing to do... with the imaginary threats from Russia and China. In fact, this is an abuse of the concept of 'national security' for the sake of that part of the American political establishment," he said.

    The news comes after the Trump administration slapped sanctions on 117 Russian and Chinese aerospace firms in November, citing similar allegations of links to respective military, sparking anger from Moscow and Beijing, affecting numerous firms such as Commercial Aircraft Corp of China Ltd (COMAC), Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).

    Trump's contentious trade war with China has sent relations plummeting in recent months after the former placed dozens of Chinese firms, including Huawei Technologies, ZTE, and chipmaker SMIC on a trade blacklist, sparking anger from Beijing.

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    Tags:
    new sanctions, sanctions, tech wars, US-China trade war, Regional Cooperative Economic Partnership (RCEP), trade deal, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, trade agreements, free trade agreement, US, European Union (EU), China
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