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Angela Merkel

Five things to watch out for during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s trip to China

As the German Chancellor begins a two-day visit to China, the main issues likely to crop up include Iran and US-China trade frictions

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 May, 2018, 8:03am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 May, 2018, 8:03am

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel begins a two-day visit to China on Thursday.

During her trip she will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

Merkel will also visit Shenzhen in southern China on Friday where her itinerary will include the opening of an innovation hub hosted by the German Chamber of Commerce and a trip to a Chinese start-up company.

Here are the main issues likely to crop up during her trip:

1. IRAN

Merkel and Xi will discuss the next steps to safeguard the Iran nuclear deal after the United States pulled out of the agreement earlier this month.

Iran likely to be high on agenda for China, Germany during Merkel visit

Merkel and other European leaders have held emergency meetings in recent days to coordinate efforts to save the deal, while China has been meeting with Iranian officials to manage the fallout from the US withdrawal.

Xi and Merkel may discuss ways to ensure European companies avoid the consequences of US sanctions on Iran by working through China.

Iran’s top envoy to China calls on Beijing to help safeguard nuclear deal

The EU has already rebuffed US demands for a fresh Iran nuclear deal and called on other members of the international community to uphold the agreement.



2. TRADE

China hopes it can present a united front with Germany as trade frictions between the US and China continue to simmer.

Multilateralism, meaning multiple countries pursuing common goals, is likely to be a buzzword during the trip in the face of unilateral trade actions by the Trump administration. Merkel said in her podcast last weekend that her goal was to “strengthen multilateralism” during her trip to China.

Who will be the biggest losers from a China-US trade war truce?

Merkel added that China and Germany were committed to World Trade Organisation rules. The two sides may make a statement that confronts US unilateral trade threats to China and Germany.

3. MARKET ACCESS

Merkel has said increasing market access for German companies in China will be a high priority for her trip, but China is also calling for similar treatment in the European Union ahead of the visit.

China’s Ambassador to Germany, Shi Mingde, told the German paper the Stuttgarter Zeitung that Germany should stop limiting Chinese investment and that China sees a “protectionist tendency” in Germany.

Germans wary of China’s drive to gain more control over firms

Merkel has called for EU action to increase reviews of Chinese purchases of European companies, with Germany exploring an investment screening mechanism.

Chinese state investor to shun US for Europe in pursuit of tech assets

Shi also rejected criticism made by European leaders who say that China’s Belt and Road Initiative is an effort to invest in Europe, while limiting European companies’ access to China markets.

“Economic exchange cannot work as a one-way street,” he said.

4. NORTH KOREA

Uncertainty still hangs over whether US President Donald Trump will meet the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12 to discuss reining in Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme. Trump has said the talks may be delayed.

US secretary of state says Trump’s summit with Kim is still on

Merkel and Xi are likely to discuss the issue, with the German chancellor trying to learn more about China’s approach to the summit and negotiations over the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his German counterpart Heiko Maas at a G20 meeting in Buenos Aires on Monday and the two discussed North Korea, according to the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua.

5. HUMAN RIGHTS

Rights groups have been pressing Merkel to push for the release of Liu Xia, the widow of the late Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. She has been held under house arrest in Beijing since 2010, but has never been charged with any offence.

Officials from Germany and the US have also urged China to release Liu.

Confidante of Xi Jinping told Liu Xia she might soon be free: sources

Merkel’s spokeswoman, Martina Fietz, did not comment directly on Liu’s case on Tuesday. “As a general rule, the government and the chancellor campaign constantly for the question of human rights,” she was quoted as saying by the news agency Agence France-Presse.