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Germany's Gabriel offers conciliatory tone at China conference

At a conference in western China, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has again urged China not to put German companies at a disadvantage. He has also acknowledged that opening China's markets will take time.

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel urged the Chinese government to remove barriers for German companies while speaking at a conference in the western Chinese city of Chengdu on Thursday.

Gabriel also said he understood opening China's markets to foreign companies will take time.

"We cannot expect that it will become an open market overnight," he said.

However, it is important that China develops equal market conditions for domestic and foreign companies, the economy minister urged.

Gabriel also said he hoped the flourishing German-Sino economic relations could be further expanded. Germany is the "guest of honor nation" at the Western China International Fair in Chengdu.

As he landed in Chengdu, Gabriel tweeted that discussing "fair trade and a level playing field" was at the top of his list for talks with Chinese officials.

Takeover tensions

The German economy minister also praised an uptick in Chinese investments in Germany, including several acquisitions.

"It shows that Chinese investment is growing with us - and that's good," he said. Excluding certain security sectors, there are very few restrictions in Germany for foreign investors. Gabriel said he hopes that will also be the case in China soon.

Berlin has been pushing Beijing to loosen up on restrictions that make it difficult to buy or create firms in China, such as those requiring foreign firms to work in conjunction with Chinese partners.

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Gabriel's praise came amidst tensions over Chinese takeovers in Germany. Last week, the Economy Ministry called for a further security review before China's Fujian Grand Chip Investment Fund LP's takeover of German chip equipment maker Aixtron.

Prior to Gabriel's trip, Beijing said the stalled process was of "great concern."

Meetings cancelled

A planned meeting between Gabriel and Vice Premier Ma Kai did not take place on Thursday. An explanation for the change of plans was not immediately given. He met instead with State Councilor Wang Yong.

Signs of diplomatic tensions between Berlin and Beijing popped up several times throughout Gabriel's visit. On Tuesday, both he and Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng failed to meet with German and Chinese investors, providing different reasons for failing to meet.

He will travel later on Thursday to open the Asia-Pacific Conference of German Business (APK) in the economic area of Hong Kong.

With almost 1,000 participants, including the prime minister of Sri Lanka, the New Zealand trade minister and the industry minister of Thailand, AKP is the largest German business conference outside of Germany.

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Germany seeks to slow Chinese acquisitons

rs/sms (dpa, Reuters)

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