MP Liz Truss says Uighur issue 'can't be ignored' in Beijing trade talks
South West Norfolk MP and International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, is hoping to clinch a £80bn a year trade deal with China.
Ms Truss, who has sewn up several ambitious deals since Brexit, was asked over a webinar this week about a prospective deal with Beijing.
This week, her department announced a new £200m trade deal with Cameroon.
Signing the deal, International trade minister Ranil Jayawardena said: “Today’s deal secures opportunities for both British and Cameroonian businesses - and will help support jobs .
“International trade and investment are engines of economic growth around the globe as we all build back better from Covid-19.”
The Chinese leadership has been criticised over alleged human rights atrocities committed against the Uighur Muslim community - claims that Beijing deinies.
Ms Truss did not evade this when asked about a potential deal, stating that the UK “could not ignore” the plight of the Uighars nor the treatment of Hong Kong, although “an agreement was still possible”.
But how this will be addressed within a discourse about trade, or whether a conclusion can be reached amicably, is unclear at the moment.
Ms Truss said last month: “The EU should join the UK and US in their tougher stance on China relations,”
The situation is further complicated by the dispute between the two countries over the future of Hong Kong, which was a British colony before being handed back to China in 1997.
The US has already imposed sanctions on tech giant Huawei, resulting in a legal counter attack from the communist superpower last month.
As a result of the ban the UK decided to reassess its decision to allow Huawei equipment a limited role within the country's 5G network.
Huawei boss Ren Zhegfei is not hopeful the US will lift restrictions.
He said last month: ""I think it's very unlikely that the US will remove us from the Entity List. I won't say it's impossible, but it's extremely unlikely."
This political hot potato, set on the world stage, could be tough for Ms Truss to navigate, as it becomes apparent there could be potential for a conflict of interest when considering post Brexit international trade deals.
And efforts to secure a free trade deal with the United States are also at risk of being undermined by a row with the EU over the treatment of Northern Ireland.
The bloc has threatened to take legal action against the UK this week, though the Government says it will defend its position.
In a recent survey of the public by the British Foreign Policy Group half of Brits said the EU was the UK’s most important relationship and 37% expressed doubts about pivoting to Asia for trade.