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Berlin looks to strengthen trade ties with China

April 26, 2017

As the US adopts increasingly protectionist measures, top German diplomat Sigmar Gabriel has pledged to boost trade ties with China. Gabriel's remarks came as he met with his Chinese counterpart in Berlin.

Deutschland Sigmar Gabriel und  Wang Yi in Berlin
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Wednesday called on Beijing to open up its markets to foreign companies and guarantee fairer business conditions for German companies doing business in China.

After meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in Berlin, Gabriel said the two countries were on the right track in fostering a partnership based on fair conditions for firms from both German and China.

"There's work that still remains to be done, but there's no question that it is a common goal," Gabriel said. 

Read: Survey shows German firms 'less welcome' in China

Small German companies making big machine tools for China

Gabriel made no secret that Germany's push for better relations with China comes on the back of increasingly isolationist policies in the United States under President Donald Trump.

"Of course, when we see one part of the world choosing to shut itself off and adopt protectionist measures, it's clear that we have to look for new and improved partnerships," Gabriel told reporters. "That's not to say that we want to annul our old partnerships. Quite the opposite: We are in favor of free and open trade with the United States."

Read: Germany criticizes Trump executive orders on trade

Gabriel's diplomatic record

Gabriel has a mixed record when it comes to dealing with China. Since becoming foreign minister in January, he has pushed for a realignment in Germany's relationship with China.

However, last year, while he served as economy minister, Gabriel led a large business delegation on a largely unsuccessful five-day visit to China where he accused the Chinese government of unfairly treating German companies operating the country. Gabriel's allegedly standoffish attitude also prompted Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng to cancel a meeting with him. Berlin's "anti-investment mood" had prompted Gao to cancel the meeting, his deputy said.

North Korea overshadows talks

Gabriel and Wang's meeting Wednesday was overshadowed by the deployment of a US missile defense in South Korea, built in response to Pyongyang's ballistic missile program.

China has said it strongly opposes the deployment, sanctioning South Korean firms in response. It called for calm on the Korean peninsula, just as a US carrier group was sent to the region.

Gabriel said he was grateful that China was taking its role as key intermediary seriously as tensions heighten between North Korea and its regional enemies, plus the US. However, the United States had also sent "clear signals that it wants to de-escalate the situation," he said.

dm/sms (dpa, Reuters)

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