Fri, Feb 03, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Merkel seeks to ease EU fears in China

IF WISHES WERE HORSES:A German source said the chancellor would call on China not to take advantage of Europe’s ban on Iranian oil by boosting its own imports

AFP, BEIJING

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, inspects a guard of honor accompanied by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during an official welcoming ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to reassure Beijing over the crisis in the eurozone and urged China to press Tehran on its nuclear program as she began an official visit yesterday.

“The euro as our common currency has made Europe stronger,” Merkel said in a speech ahead of talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶).

“The European Union — in particular those states that have adopted the euro — has made considerable progress in the last two years,” she added.

Merkel’s three-day trip is aimed partly at boosting confidence in the eurozone after a sovereign debt crisis that has seen a wave of credit-rating downgrades and brought Greece to the brink of bankruptcy.

Europe is China’s top export market and Beijing has watched with increasing concern as the debt crisis has deepened, repeatedly urging European leaders to get a grip on the situation.

The leader of Europe’s biggest economy said EU members were now “deeply convinced” that they were on the right track with a treaty agreed by most EU nations on Monday that aims to stop countries from overspending.

The treaty — pushed by Germany and the European Central Bank — will require governments to introduce laws on balanced budgets and impose near-automatic sanctions on countries that violate deficit rules.

It will come into force once at least 12 EU nations ratify it, and only those countries that sign up will be able to access bailout aid from a new rescue fund.

In a speech to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Merkel also urged China — the world’s second-biggest economy — to use its influence with Iran, saying Tehran needed to be more “open and transparent” about its nuclear program.

A German government source said earlier the chancellor would also call on Beijing not to take advantage of Europe’s ban on Iranian oil — imposed on Tehran over its nuclear stance — to boost its own imports of the resource.

The US, the EU and others have ramped up sanctions to target Iran’s oil industry and central bank since a UN atomic watchdog report in November last year raised suspicions Tehran had done work on developing nuclear weapons.

Iran insists its nuclear drive is for peaceful purposes and that the International Atomic Energy Agency report was based on “forgeries” provided by its enemies.

Merkel, who is scheduled to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) today, also touched on Syria in her speech, saying it was “important that the international community speak with one voice at the United Nations.”

The German leader is expected to ask for Beijing’s support for a UN Security Council resolution against Syria, where fighting between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces and rebels is escalating.

On bilateral trade between China and Germany — which reached US$169 billion last year, an 18.9 percent increase from the previous year — Merkel called for a level playing field for German firms operating in China.

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