Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck welcomed a delegation of 14 high-ranking Chinese officials in Berlin on Friday. Led by Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, the representatives from Asia's largest economies intend to sign a deal which would expand ties with Germany, its strongest business partner in the EU.
Li was first greeted with military honors at Schloss Bellevue, the German president's residence in the capital city. He then travelled to the chancellery to begin meetings with Chancellor Merkel.
Merkel has sought to strengthen economic ties with China since first being elected in 2005. During her nearly 10-year tenure, she has met with the Beijing leadership seven times. Friday's meeting was the third time this year that the administrations of the two countries met. In March, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Berlin, followed by a visit by Merkel to Beijing in July.
Meetings on Friday were expected to produce agreements between the two countries' respective ministries on projects aimed at intensifying partnership in multiple sectors including scientific research, agriculture, education and energy.
Trade between Germany and China totaled roughly 140 billion euros ($177 billion) in 2013. Germany, for its part, ranks as China's sixth most important trade partner in the world and its most important in the EU.
Gabriel wants fairer partnership
Sigmar Gabriel - Germany's Economic and Energy Minister, as well as its vice chancellor - called for a more harmonious partnership with Beijing, where German businesses have faced red tape hindering them from reaching their business potential.
Rules for joint ventures have been "interrupted by considerable barriers," Gabriel said at the opening of a forum for economic and technological cooperation on Friday.
"We want to be fair partners for Chinese investors. German companies expect the same [treatment from China]," he added.
Chinese Prime Minister Li and Chancellor Merkel were scheduled to attend the forum later on Friday.
On Saturday, the Chinese premier and his delegation are to travel to Hamburg, Germany's biggest port and second-largest city, to attend a summit dubbed "China meets Europe." Over 500 experts from China, Germany and Europe will discuss Sino-European relations.
Beijing arrests German journalist
The state of bilateral trade has dominated talks between Berlin and Beijing this year, as has China's record on human rights. While the protests in Hong Kong, as well as China's treatment of ethnic minorities were to be discussed in Berlin on Friday, a separate story emerged involving the treatment of a German journalist based in Beijing.
Chinese authorities recently brought in Angela Köckritz - a China correspondent of the German weekly Die Zeit - for questioning. She reportedly came under suspicion after publishing an article about the arrest of a Chinese journalist in relation to her activities in Hong Kong demonstrations.
The German government demanded "the allegations [against the journalist] be clarified quickly," Merkel's deputy spokesperson Christiane Wirtz said, which she described as "alarming."
Germany's embassy in the Chinese capital is reportedly in contact with Chinese authorities over the incident.
kms/es (AFP, Reuters, dpa)