In a tougher stance against China, the EU will ban products made using forced labor.
The EU is considering imposing an import restriction on products created with forced labor, according to the bloc’s chief, in a move perceived as a retaliation for China’s treatment of its Uyghur community.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen made several announcements in her annual State of the European Union speech that signaled a more assertive stance toward Beijing.
More explicitly, von der Leyen called on Chinese President Xi Jinping to show “leadership” by setting out in detail how his country – the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases – plans to meet its climate change goals ahead of a UN COP26 summit in early November.
She also outlined EU plans to set up trade and infrastructure links in other parts of the world – including the Indo-Pacific region where China dominates – to rival Beijing’s “Belt and Road” initiative.
The stance reflected a hardening of Western attitudes toward China, which has grown into an economic superpower that competes with the United States and the European Union while ignoring their democratic and social norms.
Brussels, on the other hand, is determined to depict its actions as more independent and moderate than those of Washington, with which Beijing has a strained relationship.
Von der Leyen did not identify any countries when it came to forced labor, but reports that China is exploiting isolated Uyghurs in its Xinjiang province to create products for export are becoming a major point of contention in EU-China relations.
Rights activists in von der Leyen’s home country of Germany filed a criminal complaint this month accusing five merchants, including Hugo Boss and C&A, of profiting from Chinese official abuse of Uyghurs.
While the EU strongly supports global trade, Von der Leyen said in her speech to the European Parliament that it “can never be done at the expense of people’s dignity and freedom.”
“There are 25 million people out there, who are threatened or coerced into forced labour. We can never accept that they are forced to produce items — and that these products are subsequently sold in European stores,” she stated.
“As a result, we will propose a ban on products created with forced labor in our market. Human rights are not for sale – at any price.”
Von der Leyen singled out China’s leader on the issue of climate change, pressing him to make clear pronouncements about what his country will do to help the globe stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Washington Newsday Brief News.