Export powerhouses China and Germany vowed to strengthen bilateral trade Wednesday, Feb. 25, as their trade ministers oversaw the signing of a raft of business contracts worth more than $10 billion (7.85 billion euros).
The trade deals will be a boost for some struggling German firms
Germany's Economics Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said Wednesday, Feb. 25, in a statement on his ministry's Web site that a "lion's share of the contracts are going to German companies."
Guttenberg labeled the deals an "excellent message for Germany's export economy," which has been hit hard by the global economic slump and is currently in a recession.
Thirty-six contracts were sealed in total, with German automakers Audi, BMW, Daimler and VW securing Chinese business, news agency AFP reported. The global auto industry is under particular pressure with worldwide sales having plunged since the financial crisis took hold late last year.
Chinese Trade Minister Chen Deming is currently leading a delegation of more than 200 Chinese companies on a tour of Germany, Spain, Britain and Switzerland to clench deals with auto, electronics and technology firms.
Ministers: No place for protectionism
Guttenberg, left, and Chen argued against protectionism
At a meeting in Berlin, Chen and Guttenberg said free trade and anti-protectionism were integral to helping Germany and China through the global economic downturn.
"Protectionism will not save the global economy, it will deepen the crisis," Chen said, speaking through an interpreter. "We want to remain committed to opening up. We will not engage in (protectionism)."
Chen said Germany was "the most important economic partner" in Europe.
Guttenberg said that as the world's two biggest export nations, Germany and China have been significantly affected by the crisis. "That's why it's particularly important for our two countries to strengthen bilateral trade relations," he said.
He said the fresh deals between the two nations constituted "a powerful response to the global economy's current crisis, which is a challenge for us both."
Guttenberg went on to urge China to take down trade barriers to enable German exporters greater access to the Chinese market.
EU-China summit back on the cards
China canceled the last summit in protest
The signing of the trade deals comes as European Union officials are seeking to revive a postponed EU-China summit originally scheduled for December last year.
The Czech EU presidency has proposed a replacement meeting be held in May, but Chinese officials have yet to respond to the suggestion, AFP reported Wednesday.
"During the (January) visit of Premier Wen Jiabao to Brussels ... they agreed the postponed summit would be held under the Czech presidency in Prague, most likely in May," said a statement by the Czech ambassador to China, Vitezslav Grepl.
The original summit was called off by China in protest over a meeting between exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. France had held the rotating EU presidency at the time.
The EU-China meetings have been held yearly, with the exception of last year, since 1998 to discuss a range of bilateral, regional and global cooperation issues between the two countries.
Author: Darren Mara (afp/reuters/dpa)
Editor: Trinity Hartman