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Schroeder cementsties with China

1 December 2003

BEIJING – German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Monday held talks with Chinese leaders and attended the opening of a landmark German-Chinese tourism joint venture.

Schroeder discussed issues including North Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

Hu told Schroeder, who is on a three-day visit to China, he was “optimistic” that another round of six-party talks would take place on North Korea’s nuclear programme, following the first round in August, informed sources said.

Schroeder said Germany and China agreed or were “very close” on all major issues discussed by the United Nations Security Council.

Both countries want a transfer of sovereignty in Iraq “as quickly as possible”, he said.

He told Wen that Germany would work for the lifting of a European Union embargo on arms sales to China, which was imposed after the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Germany is the second major EU country, after France, to urge the lifting of the embargo.

China and Germany also agreed to extend on ongoing rights dialogue for two more years, and to add an explicit focus on human rights.

The dialogue has focussed mostly on administrative, legal and economic rights, drawing criticism from Amnesty International and other rights groups for failing to stem human rights abuses in China.

Earlier on Monday, Schroeder attended the opening of an office of TUI, one of Europe’s largest tourism companies, which together with the China Travel Service, plans to expand the increasing level of travel between China and Germany.

TUI China Travel Co. is the first joint venture in the Chinese tourism sector in which the foreign company has a majority stake, in what Schroeder hailed as a landmark agreement.

Last year, more than 20,000 Chinese visited Germany and with the relaxation of visa requirements this autumn the number of visits is expected to increase. According to a recent estimate, the number of Chinese travelling to foreign countries is expected to increase to 100 million by the year 2020.

Schroeder attended the signing of 11 government and economic accords, which covered topics including the rights dialogue, the opening of consulates, protection of investments, and cooperation on shipping and renewable energy.

Under growing pressure on China because of the increasing persecution of Chinese who use the Internet to spread their political opinions, Liu Di, an Internet author, was released from custody last weekend.

Germany was among the countries which pushed for the release of the 23-year-old student. She had been held for a year without any formal charges filed against her. Her release was called by human rights activists a “gift for Schroeder”. However, the activists warned that others being held by Chinese authorities should not be forgotten.

Accompanying Schroeder on the visit are Transportation Minister Manfred Stolpe, Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries as well as nearly 40 top-level managers of German businesses.

Among others, the chief executives of Siemens, Commerzbank, Infineon, MTU, ABB, Rolls Royce, Schwaebisch Hall and Bombardier are to be in the Schroeder delegation, while top-level executives from Allianz, TUI and Metro will also be part of the group.

China has emerged as Germany’s chief trade partner in the Asian region, surpassing Japan. China’s rapid economic expansion – with a growth rate of 9 percent estimated for this year – goes hand-in-glove with a strongly export-oriented economy like Germany’s.

In the first six months of this year, according to trade data from the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden, German exports to China surged 29.9 percent to EUR8.6 billion, making the Chinese the tenth-biggest market for German producers.

Imports from China reached EUR11.7 billion in the first six months, up 21.1 percent on the same period last year, making the Chinese the seventh-biggest foreign suppliers of goods to Germany.

In the meantime, some 2,000 German firms are actively engaged in China and German investments in the country are continuing to grow, now having surpassed the 7 billion euro level, according to government data.

Subject: German news