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Foundations are an essential part of the socio-political network of the free world. It is, therefore, more than astonishing that a passage crept into the CAI investment agreement that leaves China considerable influence over local branches. The uncertainty among those affected is greater than ever – but at least Brussels is trying to mitigate the damage, writes Amelie Richter. However, an explanation of how the toxic phrases found their way into the treaty in the first place has yet to be provided.
The financial world and the world of civil libertarians probably don’t have much overlap anywhere in the world. But in Hong Kong, their disconnect is taking on extreme proportions: While the rule of law is being choked off, investment is soaring to record levels. Yet both once had the same foundations: Sound British law set the framework for the money economy to thrive but also guaranteed freedom of expression. Now one seems to work without the other, writes Frank Sieren.
The Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business published a comprehensive position paper. It is intended to provide political decision-makers with guidance for the realignment of their Far East strategy. A separate chapter is devoted to diversification: The current debate is too focused on China. On the one hand, today, the real markets of the future are in other emerging markets, while on the other hand, old partners such as Japan and Australia have by no means been phased out. This is a continuation of a trend towards skepticism about China that crept into the association’s work in Berlin in recent years.
EU must justify itself: How did the sentence on foundations get into the CAI?
One alleged detail in the controversial investment agreement between the European Union and China (CAI) continues to fuel debate: the annex’s treatment of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and political foundations in the People’s Republic. One sentence, in particular, is causing concern among those affected. This concerns the filling of leadership positions. China reserves the right to fill executive positions with Chinese citizens. If the authorities were to actually apply this, it would go well beyond the already strict NGO law of the People’s Republic.
Brussels is now trying to mitigate the damage: The controversial paragraph in the annex to the CAI will not lead to an amendment of the existing NGO law, EU Commission circles stressed on Wednesday. The Commission is thus reacting to alarming reports in the German media. The hastily added explanations, however, leave open why the paragraph ended up in the CAI annex in the first place, although foundations and NGOs, as non-commercial enterprises, do not pursue any economic interests or activities and are thus not actually subject to the agreement.
CAI not a ‘political stance’
At the moment, it looks as if the paragraph slipped through due to carelessness during the years of negotiations on the investment agreement. In any case, the answer to the question why it was not addressed or prevented from the EU side remains non-committal: The talks were about market access and investment, not political freedoms. According to EU sources, the CAI does not represent a political position on the treatment of non-profit organizations in the People’s Republic. They did not react to the critical statement that, by ratifying the agreement, Brussels was indirectly accepting the sentence in question and its possible consequences.
- Reinhard Bütikofer
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