AFTER a relatively late entry into the market, Germany aims to improve on its position as China's fifth-largest trading partner. Horst Geicke, president of the German Business Association in Hong Kong (GBA), said that, prior to 1988, German businessmen were hesitant to make foreign investments as they thought they could sell all their products domestically. All this changed following the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Following a period of heavy investment in Eastern bloc countries, the German Government encouraged large companies to turn their attention to the Far East. It was only after a period of five years of losses that these businesses realised they could return a profit by treating China as not just a manufacturing outlet but as a consumer market. 'The Americans realised this much earlier [than us],' Mr Geicke said. 'We were laughing when Colgate went to Guangzhou in 1988, thinking they were all nuts with the trouble they had to go through. But, today, the American's have 90 per cent of the detergent market.' With 140 German-Chinese joint ventures in the country in 1994, Mr Geicke said German business had cultivated a close relationships with Chinese officials as evident by the two state visits to Germany by Prime Minister Li Peng and President Jiang Zemin this year. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and a large delegation of the country's business officials will visit Beijing and Shanghai in November. Mr Geicke said German businessmen in Hong Kong would continue to expand their presence in the country through joint ventures in many fields.