EU to press China on rights at summit: trade chief

(AFP) – September 21, 2010

STRASBOURG — Europe will press China to make progress on human rights and the need to open up its markets at a summit in Brussels next month, the European Union’s trade chief said Tuesday.

“Human rights are the silver threads of EU foreign policy,” European Union Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht told the European parliament in Strasbourg.

“Even though significant differences continue it is important that we discuss human rights and the rule of law during the upcoming summit,” he said.

The October 6 summit between the 27-nation EU and a delegation led by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao is likely to focus heavily on the economic links between the biggest free trade area in the world and Asia’s industrial powerhouse.

De Gucht said the EU wants to take a “forward-looking” approach and “act as partners” with China on global challenges such as climate change, international stability and the need to maintain open markets and equal access to raw materials.
But he made clear that human rights would also be addressed again with the communist-ruled country.

“There is a strong international expectaction that China should live up to internationally-recognised standards in all fields of human rights,” De Gucht said.

The EU trade chief urged China to ratify the international covenant on civil and political rights, saying it would be “the most tangible sign of China’s commitment to respect human rights.

“The EU recognises that China has made progress on economic and social rights,” de Gucht told EU lawmakers.

“We value the achievements of the Chinese leadership in improving the economic situation of millions of citizens as illustrated by the way China dealt with the economic downturn.

“However, this is not matched by similar progress on civil and political rights.”
De Gucht also expressed concern about the human rights situation in Tibet, saying a “large number” of writers and intellectuals were facing criminal charges.

Europe is divided on how to deal with China regarding human rights, notably on whether to lift an arms embargo clamped on Beijing in 1989 following the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

Germany wants to impose conditions of ending the embargo, including an improvement of China-Taiwan ties, an amnesty for arrests linked to events at Tiananmen, and a calendar for the ratification of the rights treaty.

On trade issues, De Gucth said China needs to open its market more to European businesses and improve the implementation of rules in the areas of public procurement and intellectual property rights.

“We all share the goal of China developing further, becoming more open and transparent, adhering to international standards on human rights, welcoming international and European businesses on a level playing field and working together to address global challenges,” he said.

“To achieve this we must continue to engage and deepen our cooperation.”
At the summit, the EU will also raise concerns about the value of the yuan, which Europe and the United States say is being kept artificially low by Beijing to boost exports.

The head of eurozone finance ministers, Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker, said last week that major currency actors should “discuss more formally and with more insistence with our Chinese partners” all matters concerning exchange rates.
China rejected the criticism on Tuesday, calling it “unwise and shortsighted.”

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