News Column

German Industry Calls for End to Trade War Threat

May 27, 2013

German industry joined Chancellor Angela Merkel in calling Monday for a negotiated solution to head off the threat of an escalating trade war between Europe and China.

"In the light of the current tensions in trade between the EU and China, we are in favour of a negotiated solution," said Peter Loescher, president of the Asia-Pacific Committee, which has been established by German industry's associations to represent its interests in Asia.

Loescher, who is also chief executive officer of the industrial conglomerate Siemens, was speaking ahead of a meeting between German and Chinese business leaders in Berlin with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqang, who is on a two-day visit to Germany.

"We hope that the good relations between our countries will not be damaged," said Loescher. However, he added that German and Chinese industry must be able to compete in a fair and open manner.

China and Germany are the world's top two export nations.

Li also held another round of talks Monday over breakfast with Merkel, who also touched upon Berlin's concerns about human rights issues in China.

The discussions covered the complete breadth of issues between Beijing and Berlin, from increased economic cooperation between the two nations to greater freedom for the press and artists such as Ai Weiwei, who is also a leading critic of human rights in China, a spokesman for the German government said.

The spokesman told a regular government briefing in Berlin that Merkel routinely brought up concerns about human rights during her meetings with Chinese leaders.

He said that Germany was pleased that Beijing has indicated that it would continue to hold intensive dialogue on human rights, which would help in securing gradual and lasting progress on the issue.

Speaking at a joint press conference Sunday, Merkel said she would like a negotiated end to the trade conflict between the EU and China so to avert the threat of Brussels imposing sanctions upon Beijing.

The trade tensions have been triggered by claims from Brussels that China is flooding the solar panel market with cheap products in an attempt to drive competitors out of business.

The Chinese premier is on the last leg of his first foreign tour since becoming premier in March, having already stopped in India, Pakistan and Switzerland.

Germany is China's leading trading partner in the European Union, while China is Germany's leading trading partner in Asia.

In addition to the current trade tensions between China and the EU, Li's meeting with German and Chinese business leaders is also expected to focus on Beijing's efforts at shoring up intellectual property rights in China.

"We strongly welcome the prime minister's statement last week about improving the protection of intellectual property in China," said Loescher.

The Chinese leader's talks with business leaders are also likely to touch questions such as environmental protection, innovation and market access.

Li also held talks Monday with the leaders of Germany's opposition Social Democrats, including party chairman Sigmar Gabriel and Peer Steinbrueck, who is the party's candidate for chancellor at the nation's elections, set down for September.

He is also due to meet former SPD chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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