EU lambasted by Juncker over ‘cheap’ China deal after Angela Merkel’s attack on Joe Biden

US needs to ‘accept China’s growing power’ says expert

Speaking in Brussels at a virtual event organised by the German state of Baden-Württemberg, the former Commission president criticised Ursula von der Leyen’s decision to sign a deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping that fails to force the Communist state to sign up to the International Labour Organisation.

Mr Juncker said: “I spent a very long time trying to conclude this investment agreement with the Chinese president, with the Chinese prime minister.

“And this always ultimately failed because of the question of whether the Chinese, as others have been, would be prepared to sign the International Labour Organisation conventions and bring them to life.

“We must not make any compromises on this.”

“To say ‘best efforts,’ that’s cheap,” Mr Juncker said, referring to a crucial clause in the deal, which commits Beijing to “make continued and sustained efforts” to pursue the ratification of two fundamental International Labour Organisation norms: the Forced Labor Convention and the Abolition of Forced Labor Convention.

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He added: “They should sign and ratify the labor conventions.”

Mr Juncker also said he “would have liked that we reach an understanding with the Americans” ahead of the deal.

He said: “I’m not at all of the opinion that Europe should only pursue an American-driven China policy, but so shortly before the new administration takes office, I hope that the Commission held talks with the new administration before signing this agreement.”

He added: “I actually have no doubt that the Commission proceeded prudently.”

The attack on his successor comes as German Chancellor Angela Merkel dismissed the US President’s call for Europe to pick sides between the US and China.

Speaking at the virtual Davos World Economic Forum last week, she said: “I would very much wish to avoid the building of blocs.

“I don’t think it would do justice to many societies if we were to say this is the United States and over there is China and we are grouping around either the one or the other.

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“This is not my understanding of how things ought to be.”

Mrs Merkel went on to say she “agreed” with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

She said: “The Chinese president spoke yesterday, and he and I agree on that. We see a need for multilateralism.

But she quickly moved on to question the Chinese leader’s call for more transatlantic cooperation to avoid new “cold wars”.

She said: “But there is one question where we are not in immediate agreement.

“Probably the question of what it means when you have different social models.

“When does interference begin and where does it end? When do you stand up for elementary values that are indivisible?”

Praising the EU-China investment agreement, the German leader said she was “so satisfied”.

The long-delayed investment deal was agreed between Brussels and Beijing in December.

It faced immediate criticism from European Parliament members and others for not including binding commitments on workers’ rights.

MEPs have also threatened not to ratify the deal over China’s human rights abuses.

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