China eyes deeper German economic ties: report

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China and Germany, the world's top two exporters, should deepen their economic cooperation, a top Beijing official has said, ahead of a meeting on Friday with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Vice Premier Li Keqiang, widely tipped to be China's next premier, made the remarks at a closed dinner on Thursday for businesspeople in Berlin, according to official Chinese news agency Xinhua.

According to Xinhua, Li said the two economic powerhouses should expand ties both in traditional areas such as machinery and cars but also explore new cooperation in low-carbon technologies and energy efficient industry.

He noted that bilateral trade between the two is thought to have topped $140 billion last year, around 30 times more than in 1990.

For his part, German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle, who met Li late on Thursday, pressed Beijing on the issue of market access in China for German firms, technology transfer and raw material supplies.

"Technology transfer offers both sides great opportunities when it takes place willingly and under fair terms," Bruederle said in a ministry statement released after the meeting.

"I am convinced that everyone will benefit if China ensures open, free and orderly access to its raw materials," he said.

He noted that "given the scope for improvement on market access (in China), it is encouraging that Li announced a greater opening up of the service sector."

Li replied in his dinner speech that China would continue improving its investment environment, providing a "fair, stable, orderly, transparent and predictable market environment for all foreign companies in China," Xinhua said.

The Chinese official was due to meet Merkel on Friday but Berlin said no press conference was planned. Later Friday, he was set to hold talks with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

According to a German government source, car giants Daimler and Volkswagen will ink multi-billion-dollar contracts with Chinese partners following the Li's meeting with Westerwelle.

"The contracts with Daimler and VW will be more than five billion dollars," the source told AFP on Thursday.

Following his trip to Berlin, Li was due in London.

He has already visited Madrid where he said Beijing was willing to buy around six billion euros worth of Spanish debt, daily El Pais quoted government sources as saying.

After eurozone members Greece and Ireland were forced to seek bailouts worth tens of billions of euros last year, Spain, together with Portugal, have been seen as next in line in the 17-country currency union to need help.

© 2011 AFP

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