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We must not restart trade talks with China

We must not restart trade talks with China
3 min read

The government would be wrong to re-start trade talks with China. We cannot offer tough rhetoric on the importance of defending human rights while also cosying up to a country that commits genocide against its own people.

The government’s lack of cohesion or purpose when it comes to China is all too evident. The Chancellor is calling for a China-UK trade summit to reopen trade talks with Beijing, despite the appalling behaviour of the Chinese government at home and abroad.

Whether it is the CCP’s illegal seizure and militarisation of the South China seas or the trashing of the Sino/British agreement on Hong Kong, the Treasury seems ready to turn a blind eye to it all.

Yet as if to counter that call, the Deputy Prime Minister has rightly ripped up a multi-million-pound contract with a company after it was revealed that 42 per cent of their parts were produced in factories in Xinjiang. He knows, even if the Treasury doesn’t seem to, that China uses slave Labour, particularly in Xinjiang.

It beggars belief that we are about to re-invent the failed project kowtow

So, before the Treasury and Downing Street get their way in renewing the failed “Golden Decade” approach of the previous Chancellor, George Osborne, the government should consider the charge sheet against Xi Jinping and the CCP.

Let’s start with Sir Geoffrey Nice QC’s tribunal that found beyond reasonable doubt that genocide is being carried out against the Uyghur people in Xinjiang. Leaked classified documents prove this policy came from the very top of the CCP – President Xi himself.

Slave labour, forced sterilisation and indoctrination of Uyghur children add to the charge sheet. Then there is the persecution of Christians and Falun Gong practitioners while the people of Tibet sadly continue to be subject to an extensive forced labour programme. Added to this are the ongoing arrests, on trumped up charges, of peaceful pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong. Not to mention the attacks and killing of Indian soldiers on the Himalayan border.

Beyond that, the PRC have threatened war against Taiwan last year and followed that with daily military incursions into Taiwan’s defence zone.

China has been allowed to flout the rules that underpin our global trade and even worse, have a casual attitude to global health rules. Leaving aside the debate about how the Coronavirus originated in China, the fact that the CCP deliberately failed to alert the WHO of the known human-to-human transmission until long after Covid had spread globally, leaving millions dead, exemplifies its attitude to agreements or shared global rules.

Since Covid, our imports from China have rocketed, mostly from imports of PPE clothing and equipment, leaving China as the UK’s third-largest source of imports.

It may also have escaped the notice of those calling for a trade deal, that China is amongst the worst offenders in breaking the WTO rules. It would be quite helpful if those calling for the trade deal had a good hard look at the sweeping sanctions China imposed on Australia after Australia called for an enquiry into the origins of Covid. This is a breach of the rules governing trade arrangements. Remember - rule breakers make bad trade partners.  

With Members of Parliament still sanctioned by the CCP, it beggars belief that we are about to re-invent the failed project kowtow. Instead, we should be looking to diversify our investments with countries like India as well as incentivising strategic manufacturing here in the UK.

We should learn the lesson of the Covid outbreak and see just how dangerous our reliance on China had become. Time to throw away the failed policies of the past that helped create China as a major threat to human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

 

Sir Iain Duncan Smith is the Conservative MP for Chingford and Woodford Green.

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