Saturday, 11 October 2014

Li, Merkel set aside differences, eye deals worth $2.5bn

Li, Merkel set aside differences, eye deals worth $2.5bn

Li, Merkel set aside differences, eye deals worth $2.5bn

BERLIN: China’s Premier Li Keqiang met German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday for the year’s third top-level talks between the Asian and European export powers despite growing disquiet over human rights and business rules.
The visit comes at a sensitive time as China grapples with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests while the host nation gears up to celebrate a quarter-century since the fall of the Berlin Wall ended communism in East Germany.
But Berlin and Beijing, in a year of high-frequency diplomacy, stress they want to boost their multi-billion-dollar trade and investment ties and deepen a new “innovation partnership”.
Merkel and President Joachim Gauck rolled out the red carpet and received Li, joined by his entire cabinet and an entourage of 130 business chieftains, with full military honours.
Both sides then held a joint government meeting, a format that is rare for Germany and unique for China.
Li’s 14 ministers met 12 German counterparts to discuss cooperation in fields ranging from climate change and agriculture to using German green-tech to manage China’s breakneck economic growth.
Both sides planned to sign some 30 cooperation and investment deals worth over two billion euros ($2.5 billion) in sectors including health, education and the environment.European aviation giant Airbus said it would ink an agreement, and Deutsche Telekom announced a joint venture with China Mobile to build a digital network for cars on Chinese roads.Li’s second Europe trip this year, which will also take him to Russia and Italy, started on the day street protests looked likely to flare again in Hong Kong, the former British colony that was returned to the Chinese mainland in 1997.Merkel, who grew up under communism in East Germany, touched on the issue of democracy in July when she told Beijing students that the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall “enabled us to have a free dialogue”.Of more immediate concern to corporate leaders at a separate Sino-German business summit were rules governing companies in China, the world’s number two economy, with whom Germany had two-way trade worth 140 billion euros last year.In her latest weekly video message, Merkel stressed the importance of safeguarding civic freedoms in Hong Kong and criticised China’s life jail term for a leading ethnic Uighur activist.Chinese senior diplomats told a pre-trip briefing that Beijing is ready for human rights dialogue on the basis of mutual respect but stressed that “the question of Hong Kong is China’s internal affair”.

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