Politico | 12 January 2021
EU will not ask China to sign forced labor ban before ratifying investment deal, says French minister
By Jakob Hanke Vela
The European Union will not wait for Beijing to adopt a ban on forced labor before ratifying its investment agreement with China, France’s junior minister for trade Franck Riester said Tuesday.
“We will sign, the European Union will sign [the investment agreement] with the provision noted in the text, which is to make sustained and continuous efforts for ratification” of an International Labour Organisation convention banning forced labor, Riester said.
Asked by POLITICO whether France would insist on China banning forced labor before voting in the Council to approve the deal, Riester said it would not, but would instead insist on a “calendar” for Beijing’s reforms.
"We have an agreement that says that it’s a commitment to ratify — not to ratify at the time of signature — but to ratify," he said. "We’re going to ask for rendez-vous clauses, we’re going to follow this closely, we’re going to put regular pressure on China to ratify ... Now we have a few months to work out the calendar, and how we monitor all this."
Enforcement will differ from the EU’s trade deal with Vietnam, Riester said. Last year, the European Parliament ratified the Vietnam deal only after Hanoi had passed a new labor code and ratified key ILO conventions on workers’ rights and forced labor.
"In the text, in the political agreement, it’s the same for Vietnam as for China, but the specific governance depends on the country. We don’t use the same levers completely between China and Vietnam," he said.