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German ambassador to China seeks to cement ties (Global Times)

06.12.2018 - Artikel

GT: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has visited China 11 times, showing the importance Germany attaches to ties. In order to further deepen bilateral relations, what joint efforts can be made?

Goetze: The importance of bilateral ties cannot only be seen in the intense exchange of views at the highest political level, but also in the fact that China is now Germany's most important trading partner.

Obviously, we would like to see trade improve even further. We want to operate within an open trading system as part of a multilateral order within the framework set forth by the WTO. But the WTO needs to be reformed and strengthened. These reforms need the support of China. Given the importance of China for the global economic system, Beijing has a big responsibility to ensure that the WTO remains an effective body that guarantees free trade to the entire world.

We want to further our relations, not only on the bilateral level but also on the multilateral level with regard to global questions. China is a very important partner for us, for instance, in combating climate change and achieving sustainable growth. Germany has been elected a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the next two years. And we would like to cooperate here closely with China, which is a permanent member of the Security Council.

It is also very important that societies and the people of both countries get to know each other better. We have exchange programs between cities, provinces and regions. A lot of Chinese students study in Germany. We would also like to welcome more Chinese tourists to Germany. At the same time, a lot of Germans do business in China - 30,000 of them live here permanently. So the exchange is already intense, but there's a lot to be done to bring the people even closer.

GT: How does Germany view the Chinese market? And how does it view the contributions China makes to global trade?

Goetze: German companies have invested in China for a long time and have contributed to the Chinese success story during the 40 years of reform and opening-up. We hope that the CIIE created a new and additional momentum for the reform and opening-up process. Much more needs to be done.

At the CIIE, more than 170 German companies showcased their products and services. Most of them have been in China for a long time.

For them, it is very important that the opening up continues and that German companies can enjoy the same opportunities in China that Chinese companies enjoy in Germany. And that means they all hope that market barriers will further be diminished and import taxes lowered even further.

A large number of German companies, more than 5,000, are already active in China. They are keen on seeing a level playing field for foreign and Chinese businesses. There are German companies that trade in China, but many of them produce here. They are fully invested in China. It's really a long-term engagement often based on heavy investments and ongoing joint ventures with Chinese partners.

The two countries already have good cooperation in many fields, ranging from healthcare and food, to high-end, intelligent products. In the latter, there is a big prospect for further growth as we are entering the era of digitalization. Green energy, auto mobility and transportation in general are also areas where we see great growth potential.

GT: There were voices saying that Germany's export-driven economy faces risks when the US-China trade friction had peaked before the recent truce. What's the German perspective?

Goetze: Germany, as a nation that is indeed exporting a lot of goods and services, has always been a staunch supporter of an open, multilateral trading system.

In Germany, every third job is linked to trade and in some industries even every second job has to do with trade. Open trade is of utmost importance to us.

We support the European Commission in its efforts to stem the threat of an escalating trade conflict. We definitely believe that differences should be solved through negotiations based on the rules of a functioning multilateral framework.

That's why we emphasize the importance of reaching an agreement on reforms of the multilateral system. And we very much expect China, as a responsible member of the WTO, to make a strong contribution to this reform process - in particular, to address distortions that are caused by non-market policies - for instance, in case of subsidies and unfair barriers to services and investments.

One of the top priorities within the WTO reform, for us, is also addressing the appellate body crisis. The EU and China have worked out a joint proposal on this issue.

GT: What does China's reform and opening-up mean to the world?

Goetze: In the 40 years of reform and opening-up, China has experienced an almost unprecedented rise in economic growth, hardly seen by any other country in history.

In particular, China benefitted tremendously from its membership of the WTO since 2001. China has exported a lot of goods and also invited foreign companies to operate here.

A lot of German companies took that chance. In the last two years, China has been Germany's biggest trading partner - so we're really heavily interlinked with China.

As the second largest economy in the world, China also has to take on responsibility for the global trading system. China plays a significant role in global issues such as climate change and the sustainability of this planet. Obviously, everyone who is so closely dealing with China has an interest in ensuring that the success story of this country continues.

GT: What is your personal impression of the changes in Chinese society due to reform and opening-up? How would you introduce China to the German people?

Goetze: China has visibly changed a lot in these 40 years. We see cities like Beijing growing bigger and more modern, as people are moving into metropolitan centers.

During the three months I have been here, I have mainly been in Beijing and the surrounding areas. I traveled to Shanghai for the import expo and to Shandong Province for an introductory visit. It's been very impressive and I intend to go to every province during my term.

Here, you can see the success story of many people who have moved out of the countryside and from low income into the middle class. People can afford a lot of consumer goods and a better life than they could before.

At the same time, the country and the society have experienced challenges that still need to be tackled - environmental challenges and social challenges such as poverty and unequal distribution of income.

For me, as a visitor, China has always been a very fascinating and diverse country. I am very glad to be able to experience it now as somebody who lives here.

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