German Chancellor Angela Merkel will lead a delegation of CEOs from the automobile, financial services, semiconductor and energy industries to Beijing today to push for greater access to the Chinese market.
China is one of Berlin’s top trade partners–– bilateral trade between the two powerhouses topped $200 billion last year. Amid a turbulent Brexit, a drawn-out US-China trade war and American tariffs on German automobiles, the export-reliant economy is facing a recession, making Berlin’s economic relationship with Beijing more crucial than ever.
However, Merkel must avoid appearing “soft” on China. The EU looks to maintain a united front on demands for Chinese political reform, particularly vis-à-vis democracy in Hong Kong and the detention of 1.5 million Uighur Muslims in western China.
Ultimately, short to medium-term concerns for the contracting German economy are likely to win out this trip. Though Merkel might jeopardise a cohesive European stance on Beijing, she may be able to secure guarantees of greater equity for European investors in China. This would be a major concession from Beijing – which has a history of excluding foreign investors– and prove a boon for European investors seeking greater access to one of the world’s largest markets.
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Max is Foreign Brief's Chief Executive Officer. A Latin America specialist, Max is an expert in regional political and economic trends, focusing particularly on the Southern Cone.