Scholz will use trip to press Beijing on opening markets and human rights

BEIJING German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will press China to open its markets and raise human rights concerns next week in what will be the first visit by an EU leader to China since the start of the year. COVIDPandemic -19, Berlin said on Friday.

Scholz will visit on November 4 amid growing concern in the West about China’s trade practices and human rights record, as well as anxiety over Germany’s reliance on the world’s second-largest economy.

It also comes amid a bitter dispute within Scholz’s tripartite coalition over the approval of Chinese investment in a terminal in Hamburg, Germany’s largest port, which Scholz is pushing despite his ministers’ security concerns.

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A German government spokesman told a briefing on Friday that Berlin’s view of Beijing has changed but that it opposes “isolation” from China’s economy and urged Beijing to retaliate in trade relations.

Germany will discuss the “autocratic” trends in China, and human rights, “but also many other questions, regarding coordination, such as the opening of Chinese markets to European companies and others,” the spokesman said.

The spokesperson said that the German government wanted to meet with civil organizations during this visit, but it is not clear that this is possible.

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China announced in a brief statement that Scholz is visiting China at the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

China has been Germany’s largest trading partner for the past six years, with a volume of more than 245 billion euros ($244 billion) in 2021.

Scholz will be led by a delegation of business leaders during his one-day visit. The chief executives of Volkswagen and BASF confirmed that he will be among those who will attend the prime minister.

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The German leader came under fire before the trip for a cabinet decision to allow China’s Cosco to invest in a terminal in Hamburg. This came despite a sharp pushback from his coalition partners amid concerns about Chinese influence over critical infrastructure.

A German spokeswoman said Berlin was still investigating the Chinese potential of chip manufacturing by Dortmund-based company Elmos.

A spokesman declined to confirm a German media report that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency had warned against approving the investment.

($1 = 1.0054 euros)

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