US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized an EU investment deal with China as "weak" in an interview released Tuesday, warning that it does not protect against risks from Beijing.
"As we stared at it, it was a weak agreement. It didn't protect the European workers from the predation of the Chinese Communist Party," Pompeo told the Bloomberg television show of investor David Rubenstein.
Pompeo's criticism is the first in public from President Donald Trump's outgoing administration, although President-elect Joe Biden's national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, last month appealed for "early consultations" with European allies on "our common concerns about China's economic practices."
Pompeo, a staunch critic of China, stopped short of urging the EU to dump the agreement but made clear the United States had no interest in anything similar.
"We care too much about our workers, about our people, about our manufacturing, about our intellectual property to sign a weak deal that would continue to allow China to engage in activities that weren't fair and even, balanced and reciprocal," Pompeo said.
The European Union and China on December 30 approved the deal in principle after seven years of negotiations.
The Europeans hope that the investment pact will pry open the lucrative billion-plus Chinese market for their businesses, offering a needed boost after the Covid slump.
The EU moved ahead despite voicing concern about China's human rights record, including its mass incarceration of at least one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims.
The pact marked a major win for China after a concerted push by the Trump administration to isolate it, including by encouraging all nations to drop fifth-generation internet from telecom giant Huawei, saying it poses security risks.