Industry trade

EXCLUSIVE Germany draws up new trade policy with China, swears ‘more naivety’

People look at a screen showing German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck during the German Employers’ Day of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) in Berlin, Germany, September 13, 2022. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi

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BERLIN, Sept 13 (Reuters) – Germany’s economy minister said on Tuesday the government was working on a new trade policy with China to reduce dependence on raw materials, batteries and semiconductors Chinese, promising “more naivety” in trade relations with Beijing.

Sources told Reuters last week that the Economy Ministry was considering a series of new measures to make doing business with China less attractive. This is the first time the minister has made it clear that the tougher line is being translated into policy action. Read more

Robert Habeck told Reuters that China was a welcome trading partner, but that Germany could not allow Beijing’s protectionism to distort competition and would not withhold criticism over human rights abuses or risk being punished. losing business.

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“We can’t afford to blackmail,” he said in an interview.

Habeck did not describe the new measures in full, but said they would include a closer look at Chinese investments in Europe, such as infrastructure.

China has been Germany’s biggest trading partner for six years, with volumes reaching more than 245 billion euros ($246 billion) in 2021.

But the centre-left government is taking a tougher line on Beijing than its centre-right predecessor, worried about Germany’s dependence on the Asian economic superpower.

On Thursday, Reuters reported that the Economy Ministry was considering measures such as reducing or even eliminating investment and export guarantees for China and halting the promotion of trade fairs.

Habeck said Germany needed to open up to new trading partners and new regions, as many sectors depended heavily on selling to China.

“If it (the Chinese market) were to close, which is unlikely at the moment … we would have extreme sales problems,” said Habeck, adding that the economy ministry was contributing to the new German-Chinese policy. , much of which is already in place.

“And from there, you will see that there is no more naivety,” he added.

Berlin also wants to look more critically at Chinese investments in Europe, he said, adding that Europe should not support China’s Silk Road initiative, which aims to buy strategic infrastructure in Europe. and influence trade policy.

For example, Habeck signaled his opposition to Chinese Cosco’s plans to acquire a stake in a container operator in the German port of Hafen Hamburg, noting that concerns about Chinese takeover deals are spreading from technological field to other industrial sectors, such as logistics.

“I’m leaning towards the fact that we don’t allow that,” he said.

China did not join the West in imposing sweeping sanctions on Moscow after Russia invaded Ukraine, but also did not approve of Moscow’s actions as Beijing must maintain trade relations with Europe.

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Reporting by Christian Kraemer, Writing by Riham Alkousaa Editing by Miranda Murray and Mark Potter

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