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Angela Merkel in China

Cooperating well and fairly

Multilateralism, rules-based open global trade, the Iran nuclear deal and North Korea were the political items on the agenda of the Chancellor’s trip. She also met with artists and human rights campaigners. And she visited Shenzhen – China’s Silicon Valley.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese businessmen, along with a Siemens representative, at the opening of a new Innovation Hub of the German Chamber of Commerce in China Opening a new Innovation Hub of the German Chamber of Commerce in China in Shenzhen Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

During her talks with Prime Minister Li and President Xi in Beijing, the Chancellor reiterated her support for multilateralism. She called for the agreement with Iran to be upheld and advocated a nuclear-weapons-free North Korea.

Multilateralism is the direct opposite of a policy of isolationism which generally looks only at national interests. It means that states act together as equals in principle. In times of crisis, international solutions are sought. The withdrawal of the USA from the Iran nuclear deal has put multilateralism under pressure.

A wide spectrum of different relations link China and Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel advocated a two-way opening up for investment on the German and on the Chinese sides, also in the financial sector. She spoke out in favour of an investment protection agreement between the EU and China. It could be the basis for a subsequent free trade agreement.

At a meeting of the Sino-German economic advisory committee the Chancellor made it plain that for investment, companies need to have access to the other market. "We would like to see gradual improvements until we have the same preconditions."

With a view to close relations in the automobile branch, she announced improved technology transfer, especially on autonomous driving. Both sides are interested in forging new cooperation networks, she said. This relates in particular to digitalisation and the major changes involved in digitalising traditional industry, or Industry 4.0.

At the Goethe-Institut the Chancellor met with Chinese artists and research scientists. They discussed how the two sides can come to understand one another better through cultural exchange. She also met with human rights campaigners.

At the start of July, Sino-German government consultations are to be held in Berlin, where many topics will be explored in more depth, including the human rights dialogue, a legal aid agreement and the introduction of a cyber security dialogue. Economic cooperation will also be on the agenda again.

Respecting international commitments

Germany and China are not prepared to sacrifice the nuclear agreement with Iran. Germany was one of the parties involved in the negotiations over a period of many years that finally led to this agreement. It is not perfect, but we need to ask what the alternatives are, said Angela Merkel, "and the alternatives offer even less security".

Prime Minister Li stressed that the agreement with Iran was approved by the United Nations Security Council and that we cannot afford to "jeopardise peace and security in the world and in the region by withdrawing".

The Chancellor also urged that talks on a nuclear-weapons-free North Korea be pursued with all stakeholders. Prime Minister Li announced constructive support for these talks.

Shenzhen - the Silicon Valley in south-east Chinas

Shenzhen borders directly on Hong Kong and is one of China’s high-tech centres. Forty years ago, this was where the country began to open up its economy. The former province is booming and many IT companies have been founded.

The Chancellor opened a new Innovation Hub of the German Chamber of Commerce in China. She also visited a Chinese start-up and the German company Siemens.

As a centre of digitalisation, Shenzhen has developed a special dynamism. Germany must now "take a very strategic approach to digitalisation and the changes it is bringing to the labour market," said Angela Merkel.

In view of these developments, cooperation between German and Chinese companies "must be put on a new footing".

Germany is the most important trading partner for China within the EU. The volume of trade in 2017 was 186.6 billion euros, marking a 10% increase over 2016. China’s exports to Germany were worth 100 billion euros, while Germany’s exports to China totalled 86.6 billion euros.

May 25, 2018