Industry pressures Merkel to improve ties with China

27th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

27 November 2007, Berlin - Chancellor Angela Merkel came under pressure from German industry Tuesday to improve relations with China, which were severely damaged by her meeting with the Dalai Lama in September.

27 November 2007

Berlin - Chancellor Angela Merkel came under pressure from German industry Tuesday to improve relations with China, which were severely damaged by her meeting with the Dalai Lama in September.

Federation of German Industry (BDI) President Juergen Thumann issued a clear call to Merkel in an interview published in the Financial Times Deutschland.

"Following the friction over recent weeks, we need constructive dialogue," Thumann said.

"I am relying on the German government to maintain a China policy aimed at partnership and mutual respect."

China has cancelled a series of high-level meetings with Germany since Merkel invited the Tibetan leader to a "private exchange of views" in the chancellery in Berlin on September 23.

The most recent senior casualty was Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck, who cancelled a trip through the Far East set for early December after being snubbed by Beijing.

Steinbrueck was informed that the new Chinese finance minister, Xie Xuren, had a "full schedule" and thus no time to meet him, even though trade between the two countries totalled 76 billion euros (113 billion dollars) last year.

German banks have also objected, a spokesman for one of the larger banks saying that, while human rights issues had to be raised, "we also have clear economic interests."

A recent policy paper by Merkel's CDU/CSU conservative Christian bloc that calls for a more balanced German policy towards Asia by forming ties with "established democracies" has also been noticed in Beijing.

The aim is to "ensure that the rise of China and other powers in Asia does not lead to the destabilization of the continent," the CDU/CSU paper says.

Merkel has also come in for criticism from her own foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a member of the Social Democrats (SPD), the junior partner in her grand coalition.

Steinmeier has accused her of "showcase diplomacy" in the human rights area and acknowledged publicly that "we've unfortunately had better relations."

Beijing moved immediately after the Dalai Lama met Merkel in a highly publicized event that drew plaudits from German human rights groups.

A breakfast meeting between Steinmeier and his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, set for New York in late September was called off.

And another meeting at ministerial level between the Justice Departments of the two countries that focused on human rights issues was cancelled immediately afterwards.

German business is particularly irked at the business successes being scored by the French during President Nicolas Sarkozy's trip to China.

A French contract to build two nuclear reactors for the Chinese is among several large deals sealed.

Sarkozy has made clear that he has no immediate plans to meet the Dalai Lama.

DPA

Subject: German news

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