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Germany

Economic Ties, Human Rights Are on Merkel's China Agenda

German Chancellor Angela Merkel kicked off a state visit to China with a stop at a Daimler joint-venture there. Economic ties, but also human rights and global warming, were on the meeting agenda, advisers said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets Chinese workers during her visit to the Daimler auto factory in Beijing, shortly after her arrival Thursday, Oct. 23, 2007 starting her official visit to China.

'Made in China' and 'Made in Germany' should be tied together, Merkel says

At the start of her trip to Beijing, Merkel spoke of Germany's interest in creating "solid German-Chinese economic ties," and held up the Daimler-Chinese cooperation as an example.

Merkel was at Daimler for the celebration of the 25,000th Daimler car to roll off the production line in Beijing; she was set to meet Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 23, for talks that are expected to focus on the global financial crisis.

The two leaders will then join some 40 other heads of state at the biannual Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) on Friday and Saturday.

Merkel visit stresses importance of ties

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, prepares to cut a ribon alongside Beijing Industrial Automotive building Company President Xu Heyi, left, and the Chairman for the Board of managers of Daimler in Asia Rudger Grube, right, during a visit to the Daimler auto factory in Beijing

Merkel feted the successful automobile cooperation

German officials said the fact that Merkel was one of the few foreign leaders making a formal state visit to China for the ASEM summit showed the importance of ties between the two nations.

The world financial crisis, and global warming, are expected to be the main focal points of the ASEM summit, which groups 27 European and 16 Asian nations.

Merkel is scheduled to meet President Hu Jintao on Friday. Her talks with Chinese leaders will deal with bilateral political and economic ties, as well as North Korea's heavily disputed atomic program, and relations with Iran, German politicians told reporters.

Moreover, Merkel will meet with non-politicians such as journalists and writers. The trip to China is Merkel's fist since she met with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama last year, which led to strained ties between Beijing and Berlin.

Calls for discussion on human rights

Green Party politician Volker Beck told AFP news service that he hoped Merkel would bring up the "continuing poor state of human rights" in China, and urged her not to let the subject be overshadowed by talks of the financial crisis.

Meanwhile, two other human-rights groups appealed to Merkel to use the meetings to address human-rights issues, specifically the situation of China's Tibetan and Uighur minorities.

Merkel should press China for "tangible results from the dialogue between the Dalai Lama's representatives and Chinese officials," Kate Saunders, communications director of the International Campaign for Tibet, told dpa press agency.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, says goodbye to the Dalai Lama, left, after a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2007.

Merkel's 2007 meeting with the Dalai Lama shook China relations

And a European-based group representing China's mainly Muslim Uighur urged the German leader to press China to allow international investigation of claims that Uighurs were involved in several plots to attack the Beijing Olympic Games in August.

Relations back to normal after Dalai Lama visit

Thomas Steg, a deputy spokesman for Merkel, told dpa that the chancellor would indeed raise human rights issues during her China visit.

"She'll bring it up," he said.

Ruprecht Polenz, a foreign affairs spokesman for Merkel's party, the Christian Democratic Union, insisted that China-Germany relations were back to normal after Beijing's displeasure at Merkel meeting in her office last year with the Dalai Lama.

But Polenz, who chairs the parliamentary committee on foreign policy, acknowledged that "human rights remain a problem issue." He called on Beijing to grant greater autonomy to Tibet.