Angela Merkel meets with Chinese Premier amid trade concerns

BEIJING(AP):German Chancellor Angela Merkel met China’s Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Monday amid concerns over trade and the ability of German firms and foreign non-governmental organizations to operate in China.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel chats with China's Premier Li Keqiang during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on Monday.

Ms. Merkel metMr. Li following a formal welcoming ceremony and was scheduled to meet later with President Xi Jinping. Her visit comes amid growing worries among German firms over obstacles they face in doing business with China.

“It is important to have a secure juridical environment. The secure status of law is important in a large number of fields,” Ms. Merkel told Mr. Li in her opening remarks before reporters were ushered from the room.

Mr. Li praised Ms. Merkel’s work in building bilateral relations and said government-to-government ties would help facilitate relations in various fields. “We need to have new breakthroughs in developments in certain areas,” he said.

Ms. Merkel is the latest Western leader to express concerns over China’s new law governing NGOs, which places their management under the national police rather than the civil affairs ministry. Foreign officials including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have said that could expose them to undue scrutiny and harm overall people-to-people exchanges with other countries.

Some in Germany also nurse doubts about Chinese purchases of German companies, including Chinese appliance maker Midea’s $5.2 billion takeover offer for German industrial robot maker Kuka.

Ms. Merkel arrived in China Sunday on her ninth visit as chancellor, accompanied by members of her Cabinet and a 20-member business delegation.

China was Germany’s No. 4 trading partner last year, behind the U.S., France and the Netherlands, with a total trade volume of 163 billion euros ($183 billion). China was Germany’s top source of imports and fifth biggest export destination.

While total trade volume grew 6 per cent last year, imports from China grew by 15 per cent while exports to China were down 4 per cent.

Following her arrival on Sunday, Ms. Merkel received an honorary degree from a Chinese university and delivered a speech touching on issues of rule of law and reciprocity in trade, before dining with Mr. Li at the scenic Summer Palace.

She will visit a BMW auto plant in the northeast city of Shenyang on Tuesday before returning to Berlin.