Xi Jinping calls for Germany, Europe to ‘remain open to Chinese companies’

Stuart Lau, South China Morning Post

Posted at Nov 25 2020 12:40 PM

President Xi Jinping has urged Germany and Europe to “remain open to Chinese companies” and vowed to reach a deal this year giving European businesses greater market access in China.

Xi made the remarks during a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, and as the European Union plans new restrictions on Chinese state-owned giants.

It came hours after EU leaders pledged to rebuild the transatlantic alliance in a phone call with US president-elect Joe Biden.

“We hope that Germany and the European Union will remain open to Chinese companies,” Xi told Merkel, according to China’s state-run news agency Xinhua.

“China and the EU should strive to be mutually respectful and grasp the main themes of dialogue and win-win cooperation,” the president was quoted as saying.

The EU is at present consulting on ways to beef up trade defence mechanisms against state-owned enterprises and other companies receiving state aid – a move seen as targeting Chinese businesses.

EU member states are also tackling the controversial issue of 5G security, with more countries deciding to bar China’s Huawei Technologies, although Germany has been a notable exception.

During the discussion, Xi also told Merkel that Beijing wanted to conclude an investment agreement being negotiated with the EU this year.

He said Chinese economic development would benefit Germany, the biggest EU investor in China.

Merkel told Xi that China’s swift economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic was good news for German businesses, according to Xinhua.

She congratulated China on signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with 14 other Asia-Pacific countries, adding that she hoped to “put in more efforts” to conclude the investment deal between the EU and China.

Merkel also said she hoped to strengthen cooperation with China on trade and investment and new energy vehicles such as electric cars.

Germany’s desire to sell more new energy vehicles to China comes as its traditional carmakers have been seen as slow to adapt to the changing consumer preference for such cars in Europe.

The conversation followed Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s call for the EU to keep charting is own course on Beijing during a phone call with Josep Borrell, his counterpart in Brussels, on Monday. Wang urged the EU to avoid a new cold war and economic decoupling during the discussion.

Biden also approached the EU leadership on Monday. In their phone conversations with Biden, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed interest in rekindling a transatlantic alliance upset by US leader Donald Trump.