Germany, China stress support for euro

June 28, 2011 - 7:44 AM
Germany China

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and the Prime Minister of China Wen Jiabao, right, talk together as they walk through the garden of the Villa Liebermann in Berlin, Germany, Monday, June 27, 2011. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao arrived for a two-day visit to Germany. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN (AP) — Premier Wen Jiabao has underlined China's support for Europe and the euro as it grapples with its debt crisis, insisting that Beijing has confidence in the 17-nation currency.

Wen said after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday that if Europe has difficulties, China will "reach out our helping hand." He pointed to Chinese purchases of European bonds.

Wen says China is confident in Europe because it includes countries such as economically strong Germany and it has a skilled work force, among other reasons. He says the current difficulties are "only of temporary nature."

Merkel says she assured Wen that Germany will do everything to ensure eurozone countries' competitiveness but also the "necessary degree of solidarity."

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

BERLIN (AP) — German and Chinese leaders on Tuesday pledged a big increase over the next few years in trade between their countries, the biggest economies of Europe and Asia, while China's premier downplayed Europe's current economic woes.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Premier Wen Jiabao and many of his ministers to Berlin, a reception that underlined Germany's hopes of deepening political and economic ties with fast-rising China.

Merkel said at a joint economic forum that Germany and China want to increase their annual bilateral trade volume to euro200 billion ($284 billion) by 2015.

Trade between China and Germany totaled just over euro130 billion last year, a 38.5 percent increase compared with 2009. China was the No. 7 buyer of German exports, at euro53.6 billion; and it led the list of importers to Germany, which bought Chinese goods and services worth euro76.5 billion.

Wen, speaking after Merkel, voiced hopes that the countries could even double their trade volume over five years.

China, which overtook Germany as the world's biggest exporter in 2009, is now Germany's third-biggest trading partner — after France and the Netherlands, and ahead of the United States.

"We both take the view that what is good can become better," Merkel said. She added that China and Germany are "ideal partners" to develop electric cars for the future, for example, and said both sides want to "deepen our investment relationship."

Germany has led growth in the 17-nation eurozone over the past year, posting an increase in output of 3.6 percent last year. It has "great opportunities for powerful growth this year" as well, Merkel said. Officials and economists say this year's growth could total 3 percent or more.

Wen, whose visit to Germany followed stops in Hungary and Britain, stressed that ties with the European Union are of strategic importance to Beijing.

"Some EU countries are currently in economic difficulties," Wen said in a reference to the debt crisis weighing on countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal. "But these are of temporary character."

China, he said, is "full of confidence" in the EU's development.

Wen said China is prepared to buy more high-quality German goods but also called for Berlin to quickly grant it formal recognition as a full market economy to help remove obstacles to trade.

He said that "we are not forcing anyone into technology transfer" but urged Germany to seek a loosening of EU export restrictions which, he argued, "significantly limit the export of Germany's new technologies to China and the international competitiveness of German companies on the Chinese market."

Merkel, Wen and their ministers were meeting at the chancellery later Tuesday.