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Big business

January 8, 2011

A visit to Berlin by the rising star in Chinese politics, Li Keqiang, ended with the world's two biggest exporters inking business deals worth billions of dollars of dollars, mostly with automakers VW and Mercedes Benz.

Li Keqiang
Li Keqiang is tipped to become China's next prime ministerImage: dapd

Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Li Keqiang travels to the southern state of Bavaria on Saturday, following a two-day visit to Berlin which ended in the signing of business contracts worth some $11.3 billion (8.7 billion euros).

The biggest of the 11 agreements were with Volkswagen and Mercedes Benz, totaling $6.2 billion. The deals also include a modernization plan for the Chinese nuclear industry and the delivery of three container ships.

Li also met Chancellor Angela Merkel, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and President Christian Wulff on Friday. On Saturday, he's scheduled to meet executives of German luxury carmaker BMW in Munich and the state's premier, Horst Seehofer.

Call to change rare metals policy

Rare earths at manufacturing plant
Rare earths are key to manufacturing everything from iPods to wind turbinesImage: AP

Li, who is seen as a rising star in Chinese politics and is tipped to become the country's next prime minister, met with German Economy Minister Rainder Bruederle on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for Bruederle said an important topic was China's plans to restrict access to so-called "rare earths," which are critical to manufacturing high-tech products.

China is said to control more than 95 percent of global rare earths production. Beijing last month announced a 35-percent cut in exports of rare earth minerals for the first half of 2011, drawing criticism by the United States and Japan. China has also increased export taxes.

Brüderle issued a statement following the meeting with Li, calling for "open, equitable and reliable access to Chinese raw materials."

Bruederle told Li that "rare earths are a very clear precondition for the technological progress of all industrial nations," spokeswoman Beatrix Brodkorb said.

Li's nine-day European tour began in Spain and ends in Britain, where he is to meet business leaders and Prime Minister David Cameron.

Ahead of the visit, Cameron said improved ties with China "offer a real opportunity for Britain in terms of trade, jobs, and economic growth."

Author: Andrew Bowen (AP, dpa)
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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