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Germany's Merkel due in China for eurozone talks
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 30, 2012


German leader Angela Merkel was due to hold top-level talks Thursday on her second visit to China this year, with Europe's debt crisis taking centre stage as it begins to drag on the two global powers.

Leading several ministers and a high-powered business delegation, Merkel will meet Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing during the two-day trip and travel to an assembly plant of European planemaker Airbus in nearby Tianjin city.

With the near three-year-old eurozone debt crisis showing signs of spreading to China, the world's second largest economy, Beijing views Germany as a key player in tackling the problem.

"China and Germany, both as major economies and... manufacturing and exporting giants, have been working together to address the crisis," China's Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao wrote in the state-run China Daily newspaper.

"This bilateral relationship... has gone beyond a bilateral scope and acquired global significance."

Europeans have expressed hope that China could deploy some of its foreign exchange reserves -- the world's largest -- to invest in European Union (EU) bailout funds, although there is little sign of this happening yet.

Germany and China will also be looking to bolster bilateral economic ties, amid signs both are being hit by the eurozone crisis, with German media reports saying Airbus could win a large Chinese order during the visit.

Germany is China's top trade partner in the EU with nearly half of all European exports to China coming from Germany. Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of all EU imports from China land in Germany.

Bilateral trade between the two powers reached $169 billion in 2011, an 18.9-percent rise on the previous year.

"Germany is an export-oriented economy, while China has the largest market in the world," Song said, adding the two nations could cooperate on emerging industries, infrastructure and renewable energy, among other areas.

Chancellor Merkel was also expected to raise non-economic issues with Wen, including sensitive topics like the Syrian crisis and human rights and press freedom in China.

China has joined Russia in repeatedly using their vetoes to scuttle UN Security Council resolutions aimed at tackling the deadly conflict in Syria, putting them at odds with western powers.

Merkel is likely to raise the issue of the freedom of the press with Wen amid complaints of a "deteriorating situation" for German journalists in China.

Before this visit, German journalists working in China wrote a letter to Merkel saying authorities in Beijing had been "willfully obstructing" their work by threatening not to renew their visas and intimidating local assistants.

A German official confirmed that the topic of human rights would also be on the agenda, amid pressure on Merkel to raise the issue of Tibet.

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