Merkel Talked More Than Business in Beijing | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 22.05.2006
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Merkel Talked More Than Business in Beijing

It seemed so casual, but could not have been planned more carefully: The first day of Merkel's 'getting to know you' visit to China went off without a hitch.


Behind the smiles Merkel is determined to play hardball

After a morning stroll through a local park with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jinbao -- dressed casually in an open shirt -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel talked to locals doing tai chi exercises.

But photo ops aside, economic ties were a primary focus of the visit. And topics like human rights and Iran's status as a nuclear power were also on the agenda. Most of all, though, the visit was about two governments getting to know each other. It was the chancellor's first visit to China since taking office a half a year ago.

The 63 year old Wen clearly took to Merkel, saying she brought a "friendly wind" to Beijing.

Merkel in China

The smiles soon made way for hard talking

For her part, Merkel said Germany's relationship with China was good, but there was room for improvement.

After the discussions in Beijing, Merkel and Wen announced that Germany and China had agreed that Iran should not be allowed to build nuclear weapons. However, despite the rather obvious and expected consensus, there was no mention of any progress in decreasing the divisions over what action should be taken to enforce it.

Agreeme n t o n weapo n s but n o co n se n sus o n actio n

"We talked about Iran and both (of us) agreed Iran should not have the capability to make nuclear weapons and shouldn't proliferate weapons of mass destruction," Merkel told a joint press conference with Wen.

Chancellor Merkel also chose to bring up the topic of China's human rights record, an issue that critics in Germany have pushed Merkel to address and one that her predecessor Gerhard Schröder was loath to do on his visits to the People's Republic.

"It's an important issue of bilateral dialogue," Merkel told the assembled press after talks at the Great Hall of the People. She did not go into details on whether she brought up any specific human rights cases but added: "I have made it clear that human rights are indivisible."

Merkel is critical of efforts within the European Union to lift the ban on arms sales to Beijing without first securing guarantees on human rights reforms in China.

Pirated goods a n d price dumpi n g co n cer n s addressed

Trade between Germany and China was also on the agenda. Bilateral trade reached 49.4 billion euros ($63.2 billion) last year, making Germany China's largest trading partner in the European Union. But even so there were still a few hot topics the chancellor chose to bring up.

Gefälschte CD's in China

Pirate goods from China cost the global economy billions

Fake goods and the protection of intellectual property rights is a chronic irritant in trade relations between the two countries and Merkel, who was accompanied by a 40-strong delegation of German business leaders and Economics Minister Michael Glos, urged the Chinese to take stronger measures to curtail a counterfeit industry which cost global business around 300 billion euros ($384 billion) a year.

"Because we are technological leaders in many areas, protection of intellectual property is crucial to our success," Merkel told the fourth meeting of the High-Technology Dialogue forum, attended by over 300 German and Chinese business and industry representatives. "But I observe with great interest the rise in China's technological capacities," she said. "That should give China a higher stake in effectively protecting intellectual property."

Premier Wen Jiabao conceded there are still "many problems" in the area. "The protection of intellectual property is not only an international duty for us, but it also serves the interests of China," Mr Wen said, adding that his government was considering both "administrative" and "judicial" tools to better protect companies' proprietary information.

German industrialists, who have often complained about the lax enforcement of China's anti-piracy laws, say Chinese regulations actually encourage intellectual property theft by forcing German companies to reveal highly detailed proprietary information about their technologies, for instance when bidding for public tenders.

An agreement between German and Chinese textile industry representatives against product piracy that would punish companies that make counterfeit textiles is expected to be signed during Merkel's visit.

The German contingent were also expected to discuss the the EU's anti-dumping tariffs on clothing and footwear with their Chinese counterparts, a contentious issue which has been threatening to spill over into a full-scale trade war.

Leaders sig n railway deal

China Transrapid in Schanghai

German technology will be applied to a new generation of trains

The two nations did agree on a deal which would see Germany's Siemens, China's Ministry of Railways and Chinese firm CSR Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive work together on the building of 500 Chinese trains, although no details about the timing or extent of cooperation were given in the agreement or by Chinese officials.

Siemens president and chief executive officer Klaus Kleinfeld told reporters after the memorandum of understanding was signed that the total value of the project could be worth 1.2 billion euros.

In Shanghai on Tuesday, Merkel planned to look at Germany's favorite export object, the Transrapid rail line.

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