China-Europe agreement: Paris will be “extremely firm” on the subject of forced labor

In the context of the current international diplomatic crisis over the Uighurs, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Thursday (March 25, 2021) that France will be “extremely firm” on the issue of forced labor in the ongoing discussions on the China-EU trade agreement.

According to AFP, the government spokesman made the statement on French domestic radio; he said: ‘This is also an opportunity for us to defend our principles and values, and we will be very clear and firm on the issue of forced labor in the framework of the negotiations.

The spokesman considered that “what the Uighurs are going through is totally unacceptable, even shocking, depressing, he said: it is absolutely unacceptable to talk about forced labor, forced detention, about the harm, about the terrible situation”.

AFP noted that the CEI agreement was reached on Dec. 30 last year, but it will be several months before it is officially signed. The agreement includes references to International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions, particularly the provisions on forced labor.

Paris also backed the agreement in January, seeing it as an “unprecedented” counterweight to Beijing‘s progress on human rights.

On Monday, the European Union, the United States and Canada all condemned the persecution of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and sanctioned four leaders and one entity in Xinjiang, and several European countries, including France and Germany, summoned the Chinese ambassador.

Beijing, for its part, denounced European “intimidation and hypocrisy” and immediately announced retaliatory sanctions against a dozen European figures, including five MEPs, who were accused of “spreading lies” based on what Beijing considers to be false research.