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Business

German, Chinese business leaders disagree on trade conditions

German business leaders say their operations in China aren't getting a fair shake. At a joint forum in Xian, part of Chancellor Angela Merkel's diplomatic visit, both sides aired grievances on bilateral trade.

Merkel and Wen

Merkel and Wen didn't "beat around the bush"

As German and Chinese business leaders fired broadsides at each other in a joint trade forum in Xian, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was keen to stress that even disputes can be positive.

"In our talks, we don't beat around the bush," Merkel optimistically concluded, saying the frank exchange marked a new spirit of openness between the two major trading partners.

The German delegation Saturday lodged complaints that Beijing restricted their access to the Chinese market in favor of domestic companies, and that China did not provide protection for foreign patents.

"Forced disclosure of know-how"

Merkel and Wen in front of a line of Chinese guards

Merkel wants better access to Chinese natural resources

The head of Siemens, Peter Loescher, advocated for Beijing to give foreign businesses the same treatment as domestic Chinese companies, arguing that foreign companies operating in China "expect to find equal conditions in the fields of public tenders."

Juergen Hambrecht, chief executive of German chemical giant BASF, meanwhile accused the Chinese government of "forcing disclosure of know-how in exchange for investment decisions" affecting their role in the market.

"That does not exactly correspond to our views of a partnership," added Hambrecht, whose company has invested $1 billion (773 million euros) in Chongping City.

Limited access to raw materials

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao responded that China was creating good conditions for foreign companies to enter its market. He stressed that China gave foreign companies the same treatment as domestic companies, as long as they produced in China.

Hamburg port

China wants the Elbe River dug deeper

"Our market has a stable and fair atmosphere; I welcome German investments in China," Wen said, asking Hambrecht to calm down.

The German delegation also levied complaints of insufficient access to Chinese raw materials for foreign companies. Though China has the world's largest deposits of tungsten and other elements important to technology production, Merkel and Juergen Heraeus of the German precious metals and technology group Heraeus Holding, voiced concerns that Beijing was giving domestic companies preferential treatment in accessing these materials.

Wen assured them that regional procedures to access raw materials would become relaxed.

Dredging the Elbe

The Chinese delegation, meanwhile, bemoaned Germany's visa requirements. Wei Jiafa, head of China's largest shipping company, COSCO, also demanded a controversial deepening of the Elbe River channel near Hamburg to allow the passage of Chinese ships.

Merkel visiting the Terracotta Army to celebrate her birthday

Merkel visited the Terracotta Army to celebrate her birthday

Merkel expressed no intention of deepening the Hamburg port to make it more accessible to Chinese - or any other - ships.

Also on Saturday, Merkel celebrated her 56th birthday in the Northwest city of Xian, where she paid a visit to the 7,000 warriors and 600 horses of Terracotta Army of China's first emperor Qin Shi Huang.

Author: Mark Hallam/David Levitz (AFP/dpa/Reuters)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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