Contradicting reports on Tuesday that apparently quoted European Union Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis out of context, his communication adviser Vanessa Mock confirmed that no formal decision had been made by the EU to suspend the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment.
However, it seems that although the technical work is ongoing to prepare the ground for ratification, the EU is unhappy about the sanctions China imposed on European lawmakers, which its trade chief described as "unacceptable".
Yet Dombrovskis knows that the sanctions were imposed after the EU unilaterally and baselessly imposed sanctions on Chinese individuals and an entity for alleged human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in late March. It was fully justified for China to counter with retaliatory sanctions against lawmakers, academics and institutions that had "maliciously spread lies and disinformation" about the situation in Xinjiang.
Dombrovskis said the EU's ratification "will depend really on how broader EU-China relations will evolve", implying that the EU is holding the deal hostage to compel China to unilaterally lift the sanctions.
If that is the case, it will be waiting in vain. The EU should take a step back and reflect on its reasons for politicizing the investment deal and poisoning Sino-EU relations. In doing so, it will realize that its rationale is built on sand supplied by Uncle Sam.
It is being hoodwinked by the United States, which has been fabricating lies about Xinjiang as part of its campaign to contain China.
The package of plans the EU unveiled on Wednesday to reduce its dependence on foreign suppliers, mainly China, in six strategic industries, and restrict takeovers from foreign companies, with Chinese companies as the main target, shows how susceptible the EU is to the wiles of Washington.
With the US gloating at the uphill battle the investment deal faces in being approved by the European Parliament, the EU should pay heed to the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said on Wednesday that, "despite all the difficulties that will surely arise with its ratification, it is a very important undertaking" as it lays the foundations for "mutually beneficial" trade.
In the face of Washington's attempts at some good old-fashioned emotional manipulation with its deceptions and rousing talk of defending the rules-based global order, the EU should try and remain clearheaded, and view things rationally.
The investment agreement is not a gift from the EU to China. The deal was struck after seven years of intense negotiations, and during that time the two sides will have had much to talk about, and in doing so they have had plenty of opportunity to get to better know each other. Neither has suddenly changed overnight.
What has changed is the US' strategy to contain China. Washington, having tried and failed to go it alone, is now desperately trying to get the US allies to sully themselves by joining it in its dirty work.
How the "situation evolves" will depend on how indulgent the EU is of the impropriety of the US.