German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas last week issued critical comments to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regarding its plans for trade encroachment and lack of human rights. Both officials mentioned the importance of joining the United States in a joint struggle.
According to the SCMP, the German officials made an unofficial request to the United States to move forward with joint work with Europe in response to the Chinese regime’s abuses, even calling for action before next week’s U.S. elections.
The comments followed confirmation of creating a new U.S.-European forum to discuss China–related issues, which would become operational in 30 days. The announcement followed a phone call between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his E.U. counterpart Josep Borrell last Friday, SCMP reported in another article.
Many European officials have been complaining in recent months about Beijing’s failure to open its economy to foreign actors, and more recently, there has also been much criticism of the human rights situation in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, including during a virtual summit with President Xi Jinping in September.
However, Germany has been one of the countries that have been most reluctant to move closer to the decisive stance of the United States in confronting the CCP, especially since Donald Trump became president in 2016.
President Trump has repeatedly criticized the Berlin authorities’ position, especially for not paying enough toward NATO funding and the EU as a whole for competing against the United States rather than becoming more committed to fighting the advances of the CCP.
Despite Germany’s stance of keeping some distance from the Trump administration and its international policies, Defense Minister Karrenbauer, who called herself “Atlanticist,” suggested building a “strengthened Western trade alliance” in response to Chinese practices.
“German interests—and those of Europe—need an order that can counter both dangers to liberal trade: the aggressively directed state capitalism of China,” were the words of Karrenbauer, according to the SCMP.
Karrenbauer added that it would not be a “crazy idea” for the E.U. and the United States to eliminate all tariffs and trade barriers between them and establish a free trade policy.
The official, who seems to be in some sense aligned with President Trump’s policy, mentioned her fears about the advance of the CCP, which are not different from the claims that the U.S. government has been making during the last months.
Among other issues, she noted that her concerns include China’s long-standing monetary manipulation, aggressive appropriation of intellectual property, unequal conditions in common investments, and competition distortion by continued state subsidies.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote in the Welt am Sonntag newspaper about relations between the United States, Europe, and the CCP.
While he maintained a certain critical tone toward the Trump administration, he acknowledged that Europe and the United States, unlike the CCP, share an interest in open societies, human rights and democratic norms, fair trade, free maritime routes, and security of data and intellectual property. This would be sufficient to encourage and further develop trade unity with the United States.