BEIJING, Oct 28 (Reuters) – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will urge China to open its markets and raise human rights concerns next week in what will be the first visit by a German leader. European Union in China since the start of COVID-19. pandemic, Berlin said on Friday.
Scholz will visit Nov. 4 at a time of growing concern in the West about China’s trade practices and human rights record, as well as concern over Germany’s dependence to the world’s second largest economy.
It also comes amid a row within Scholz’s three-party coalition over whether to approve Chinese investment in a terminal in Hamburg, Germany’s biggest port, which Scholz is pushing through despite concerns security of his ministers.
The German government spokesman told a briefing on Friday that Berlin’s view of Beijing had changed but was opposed to the ‘decoupling’ of the Chinese economy and wanted Beijing to show reciprocity in relations commercial.
Germany would discuss “autocratic” tendencies in China, human rights, “but also a whole range of other issues, on reciprocity, such as in opening up Chinese markets to European and other companies”, said the spokesperson.
The German government wanted to meet with non-governmental organizations during the visit, but it was unclear whether this would be possible, the spokesperson added.
Scholz is visiting China at the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement confirming the trip.
China has been Germany’s biggest trading partner for six years, with volumes reaching more than 245 billion euros ($244 billion) in 2021.
Scholz will be accompanied on his one-day visit by a delegation of business leaders. The chief executives of Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) and BASF (BASFn.DE) have confirmed they will be among those joining the chancellor.
The German leader was criticized ahead of the trip for pushing through a cabinet decision allowing China’s Cosco to invest in a terminal in Hamburg. This came despite strong pushback from its coalition partners amid concerns over Chinese influence over critical infrastructure.
Berlin is also still examining the potential takeover by China of the chip production of the Dortmund-based company Elmos (ELGG.DE), the German spokesman said.
The spokesman declined to confirm a German media report that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency had warned against approving the investment.
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Reporting from the Beijing Newsroom, with Matthias Williams and Andreas Rinke; Written by Rachel More and Matthias Williams; Editing by Alex Richardson and David Holmes
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