Berlin (AFP) – China and Germany vowed to build up already massive business ties at their third summit this year in Berlin Friday, amid tougher times for Asia and Europe s biggest economies.
Chancellor Angela Merkel rolled out the red carpet for Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who kicked off a week-long Europe tour in Germany, joined by his entire cabinet and some 130 business leaders.
After a welcome with full military honours and a joint cabinet session, they oversaw the signing of government agreements and business contracts worth over 2 billion euros ($2.5 billion).
Li hailed Germany as the “locomotive for cooperation between China and Europe” at a joint press conference and stressed that it was the only country he had visited twice since taking office this year.
Merkel praised the “very intensive cooperation … not just in classical areas” such as trade and investment but also in a variety of fields such as health, education, food production, the rule of law and human rights.
The visit came at a sensitive time as China grapples with Hong Kong s resurgent pro-democracy protests and the host country gears up to celebrate a quarter-century since the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall ended communism in East Germany.
But neither side allowed differences over civil rights to spoil the day, part of a high-frequency diplomacy that saw Merkel visit China in July, her seventh official trip there, after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Berlin in March.
Merkel said she hoped pro-democracy demonstrations in the former British colony of Hong Kong would stay peaceful and that “in a free exchange of ideas, solutions will be found that satisfy the population of Hong Kong”.
Li highlighted the “high level of autonomy” Hong Kong had enjoyed since its 1997 handover and said he was sure its leaders could “maintain the prosperity of the city and safeguard social stability” while “protecting residents from injury and property damage”.