Members of the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly Thursday in support of freezing the legislative process for ratifying the EU’s investment pact with China, until Beijing lifts sanctions against EU lawmakers.
The motion was passed by 599 MEPs, with 30 votes against and 58 abstentions, dealing a blow to the fate of the pact, officially known as the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI).
“CAI is definitely in the freezer. China miscalculated and shot themselves in the foot,” Reinhard Bütikofer, chair of the Parliament’s delegation for relations with China, said on Twitter.
Bütikofer is one of five MEPs sanctioned by China, which also imposed similar measures on the European Parliament’s human rights subcommittee after the 27 EU countries sanctioned four Chinese officials involved in mass internment of Uyghur people in the Xinjiang region.
According to the motion, the Parliament took the position that “any consideration of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, as well as any discussion on ratification by the European Parliament, have justifiably been frozen because the Chinese sanctions are in place.”
It also demands that “China lift the sanctions before dealing with CAI, without prejudice to the final outcome of the CAI ratification process,” and says MEPs expect the European Commission “to consult with Parliament before taking any steps towards the conclusion and signature of the CAI.”
Beijing previously said it expected MEPs to “reflect deeply” and to ratify the deal as soon as possible. There are no signs from Beijing yet that it’s planning to remove the sanctions, which it has called “necessary, legitimate and just.”
When asked about the Parliament’s vote during a press conference later Thursday, EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said: “This is something which we have been making very clear also on the European Commission’s side.
“We cannot see this process of ratification outside of the broader context of EU-China relations. The fact that China has introduced retaliatory sanctions, including against members of the European Parliament, is certainly not a conducive environment for working towards the ratification of the deal,” he said.
Still, the vote does not mark an end to the deal, according to a spokeswoman for the European Commission. While the EU executive “takes note of” Parliament’s vote, she said Brussels “continues to think that CAI would bring benefits to Europe.”
“We will reassess the situation once technical work — legal review and translations — is completed,” she said.
Giorgio Leali contributed reporting.
This article was updated with comments from Valdis Dombrovskis and a Commission spokeswoman.