A massive investment deal struck between the European Union and China will not be ratified any time soon due cracks in diplomatic ties, the European Commission said on Tuesday.
The deal was hailed by Brussels and Beijing when it was reached late last year after seven years of negotiations. But in order to go into force it must be ratified by EU member states and the European Parliament.
A spokesperson for the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, said the ratification process was now effectively on ice as it “cannot be separated from the evolving dynamics of the wider EU-China relationship.”
The relationship soured in March when Beijing imposed sanctions on 10 European lawmakers and scholars as well as four European institutions, accusing them of spreading “lies and disinformation” about China’s treatment of its mostly Muslim Uighur population.
The spokesperson called those sanctions “unacceptable and regrettable.”
China’s action was in response to being hit with EU sanctions for abuses against the Uighur people. It was the first time the bloc had issued restrictive measures on Beijing for human rights violations since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.
The prospects for ratification of the trade agreement now depend on how the situation develops, the spokesperson said.
The agreement would offer European companies access to previously closed or tightly regulated Chinese markets and ease Chinese investment in Europe.
It also sets out provisions for a level playing field to prevent state assistance from undercutting competition, and sustainable development provisions.