Baerbock demands ban on forced labor, will not attend Olympics – POLITICO


German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has called for an EU-wide import ban on products made with forced labor – a demand that would hit China particularly hard.

In comments published on Wednesday by German news agency dpa, Baerbock also said she would not attend the Beijing Winter Olympics in February. Yet she made it clear that her decision was personal and not the official line of the German government, and that German foreign ministers generally did not attend the Olympics.

Baerbock and his Green Party, who earlier this month joined Germany’s new government in a coalition with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats and the Free Liberal Democrats, have taken a critical stance towards China on human rights and democratic standards. It is not certain, however, that Scholz supports this critical stance towards Beijing, as the chancellor told Chinese President Xi Jinping last week that he wanted to deepen economic ties with the People’s Republic.

Baerbock said she supports pressure from the European Parliament to ban all products related to forced labor from the EU market: “The European Parliament’s proposal to ban the import of goods produced with forced labor is, to my opinion, absolutely correct. “

Such a ban on imports derived from forced labor would affect China, which is accused by a large community of countries of persecuting Uyghur Muslims in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang and forcing them to work in factories. China, which is the EU’s largest overall trading partner and main source of imports according to 2020 data, rejects the accusations.

US President Joe Biden signed a bill last week to ban imports of forced labor products from the Xinjiang region. The US government has concluded that China’s practices against the Uyghurs constitute genocide.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in September that she wanted to introduce a ban on imports of forced labor products into the EU, but how to establish such a measure is still under discussion.

As EU lawmakers and human rights activists call for a total ban on trade, EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis argued last week that it would be more “efficient To include such a ban in upcoming EU due diligence rules, which would put the responsibility for stopping imports produced by forced labor largely on businesses and national business regulators, exposing the European Commission and EU countries unless political reactions from China.

Beijing has agreed as part of the EU-China investment deal to “make continuous and sustained efforts” to ratify international conventions banning forced labor, but those promises have been criticized as being too vague. In addition, ratification of the investment agreement has been suspended due to human rights concerns and China’s response to them.

Asked about the Beijing Winter Olympics, which is the subject of a diplomatic boycott by the United States, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and New Zealand due to human rights concerns, which means these countries will not send any diplomatic or political representatives to the games but participate with athletes – Baerbock said she has decided not to go to Beijing.

“I’m a huge sports fan, but I will definitely not be going to the Olympics right now – that hasn’t been common for foreign ministers in the past either,” she said. She added that the EU was still discussing internally whether the bloc should jointly participate in the diplomatic boycott.

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