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Friendly relations shine during visit

2013-05-28 10:48 China Daily     Web Editor: Wang Fan comment

From the welcoming and signing ceremonies to the joint conference with the media, journalists in Berlin have witnessed moments of friendship between Premier Li Keqiang and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the past two days.

Li and his delegation arrived on Saturday in Berlin, the last stop of his official visit. Germany is the first European Union nation that Li has visited since he became premier.

Merkel on Sunday held a grand welcoming ceremony for Li in the rain, spending several hours with him during the trip.

The two talked joyfully during a signing ceremony between the governments and corporations that lasted for more than 20 minutes. They also faced foreign journalists together to answer questions concerning the EU's investigations into China's solar panel exports.

Merkel even invited Li to have dinner on Sunday night at Schloss Meseberg, a baroque castle 65 kilometers north of Berlin. Li is one of the few foreign leaders that Merkel has invited to the official state guesthouse of the German government.

On Monday morning, they met again for breakfast in the Federal Chancellery.

Not only has the premier's visit promoted feelings between the two, but more importantly it has brought closer the world's second-largest economy and the largest economy in Europe.

During the trip, the two sides signed 17 cooperative agreements, covering a wide range of sectors, including urbanization, energy, agriculture, auto, research and culture. To promote communication between young people, they also announced the opening of the "Year of Languages" program.

Germany is China's largest trade partner in Europe, and has been the major source of China's foreign direct investment, and of high-tech transfers to China. During the past few years, China's outbound investment in Germany has seen explosive growth.

As the first head of a foreign country to have made a congratulatory call to Li when he was elected premier in March, Merkel was very happy to welcome Li to Berlin. The fact that Germany was included in Li's first visit abroad as premier is "a confirmation of bilateral ties, which are already sound", said Merkel.

The German public also welcomed the arrival of Li.

Susanne Wirmann, the wife of a two-star general serving in the German government, was in the crowd that witnessed Merkel's welcoming ceremony. She said "we feel it an honor that Li chose Germany as the first country in the European Union for his first overseas visit".

However, Li's visit was about more than Germany. The premier also expects to enhance relations with the EU, China's largest trade partner and a bloc that advocates multi-polarization of the world.

"China values relations with Europe very much, and the visit to Germany sends a signal. China-Germany relations have great significance to China-EU relations," Li said.

While the US is advancing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement to expand its influence in Asia, China is proposing to launch a feasibility study over a China-EU free trade agreement. China signed an FTA with Iceland early this year, and the nation announced the wrapping up of FTA negotiations with Switzerland a few days ago.

Bilateral ties are about mutual benefits, and the EU is in need of China in many ways.

China has been a firm supporter in addressing European debt woes, and Li said on Sunday that China will provide help to Europe because this is a "win-win solution and would help the nation itself".

But the two sides are troubled by growing tensions in economic issues, with the EU's investigation into China's solar panels being the hottest and most recent case. During his trip, Li repeatedly expressed his concerns and warned against the EU's probe. Merkel said Germany offered to help on the matter.

 Premier Li Keqiang's First Overseas Trip

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