As German Chancellor Angela Merkel heads to Beijing with hopes of closing a major trade deal with China, Hong Kong protesters are urging against it, joined by the US ambassador to Berlin who also warns against “business as usual.”
Merkel is arriving in Beijing on Thursday for a three-day visit to China, her 12th since she took office. She is accompanied by a large trade delegation. After meetings with President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang, she is scheduled to travel to Wuhan in Hebei province, the German foreign ministry said.
The chancellor is apparently seeking to close on the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, a massive trade deal introduced in 2012. Talks have been ongoing since 2014, with hopes of a final agreement being reached by the end of this year.
This has alarmed US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who has previously sought to browbeat Berlin into abiding by US sanctions against Iran and now apparently wants Merkel to fall in line with President Donald Trump’s trade war with China as well.
Chancellor Merkel leaves tomorrow for China and she’s taking a delegation of German CEOs…. https://t.co/dq28MdjvzZ
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) September 4, 2019
“We hope that Chancellor Merkel will take a firm stance for the values that unified Germany after the fall of Communism: human rights, democracy, and the rule of law,” Grenell told AP on Wednesday, adding that China’s human rights violations and “willful disregard of its commitments” to Hong Kong, the UN and World Trade Organization stand against Germany’s values.
Some Germans were not amused, with former diplomat Hanns Schumacher tweeting that Grenell should “please shut up” and be grateful there are “still competent personalities without busted [e]gos who can moderate and are able to talk reasonably.”
I am tempted to say: pls shut up! Your „stable genius“ and worst dealmaker ever in the White House is creating a mess. Just be happy that there are still competent personalities without busted Egos who can moderate and are able to talk reasonably.
— Hanns Schumacher (@HannsSchumacher) September 4, 2019
Leaders of the protests in Hong Kong have also urged Merkel against doing business with China, sending an open letter that was published by the newspaper Bild on Wednesday.
“Germany should be on its guard doing business with China, because China does not abide by international law and has repeatedly broken its promises,” wrote Joshua Wong, in a letter also signed by Joephy Wong and Alice Yu, Hong Kong activists now living in Germany.
Full Open Letter to #Merkel in English.
— GermanyStandWithHK (@germany_with_hk) September 4, 2019
Protests in the former British colony returned to China in 1997 began in May, focusing at first on a proposed extradition bill but morphing later into calls for democracy, freedom and human rights, and accompanied by British and American flags.
China offers alliance against Trump
Meanwhile, the German daily Der Tagesspiegel published an article by Ambassador Wu Ken, the Chinese envoy to Berlin, calling for Sino-German cooperation against “unilateralism and protectionism” threatening free trade and the global economic order, specifically pointing to the US “intimidation policy.”
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Merkel might be looking to Beijing for cures to Germany’s export-oriented economy, which has contracted in part due to the Trump administration driving a hard bargain on trade with the EU. Ironically, Berlin and Brussels have a similar point of contention with Beijing as Trump – namely, the Chinese preference for technology transfers.
Seeking to cut down on these transfers of knowledge, Germany tightened its regulations on investments in December, and the EU followed suit in April. Chinese investments dried up almost entirely as a result, down 95 percent in Germany alone in the first half of 2019. German investments in China, on the other hand, rose by over 80 percent. Beijing is calling the EU regulations protectionist, and it looks likely they will be on the agenda for Merkel’s trade talks.
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