China defiant after EU warning over trade agreement

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BEIJING (AP) — China on Friday rejected European Parliament demands that it lift sanctions against European Union legislators in order to save a trade deal between the two sides.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the sanctions were justified and demanded that the European side “immediately stop interfering in China’s internal affairs (and) abandon its confrontational approach.”

“The unreasonable sanctions imposed by the EU have led to difficulties in China-EU relations. That is what China does not want to see, and the responsibility does not lie with the Chinese side," Zhao said at a daily briefing.

The European Parliament warned China on Thursday it won’t ratify a long-awaited business investment deal as long as sanctions against European Union legislators remain in place.

China made its sanctions move after the EU, Britain, Canada and the United States launched coordinated sanctions against officials in China over human rights abuses in the far western Xinjiang region.

Among those targeted were five members of the European Parliament — Reinhard Butikofer, Michael Gahler, Raphael Glucksmann, Ilhan Kyuchyuk and Miriam Lexmann.

The investment accord was agreed to in principle in December and needs lawmakers’ approval to take effect. In addition to the lifting of sanctions, legislators said they will take into account the human rights situation in China when deciding whether to approve the deal.

The EU hopes the agreement, known as CAI, will create new investment opportunities for European companies in China by ensuring they can compete on an equal footing, and help correct a trade imbalance.

China is now the EU's second-biggest trading partner behind the United States, and the bloc is China’s largest trading partner, according to EU figures. China and Europe trade on average over 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) a day.

Zhao reiterated China's stance that the agreement is a “balanced and win-win deal that benefits both sides, rather than a gift or favor bestowed by one side to the other."

“China has always been sincere in promoting cooperation between the two sides, and we hope that the European side will move in the same direction as us, with less emotional outburst and more rational thinking, and make the right decision in their own interests," Zhao said.