China Must Open Up, Create Level Playing Field: German Economy Minister

By Reuters
June 18, 2019 Updated: June 18, 2019

BERLIN—China must open up its markets and create fair rules for German companies, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said ahead of talks in Beijing this week, adding that he would also discuss intellectual property protection and steel overcapacity.

Germany wants to change China’s trade and business practices, but it hopes to achieve this through talks.

“China and the European Union are economic partners, but also competitors,” Altmaier told Reuters in an interview on June 16.

He added that German companies should have the same business opportunities in China as Chinese firms had in Germany.

“We need a level playing field, this means no discrimination and no disadvantages,” Altmaier said.

During his three-day visit to China, Altmaier will meet senior Chinese officials including Vice Premier Liu He, who is Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s top economic adviser.

Altmaier said the Chinese regime was pushing ahead with policies aimed at securing its economic interests around the globe for the coming decades, pointing to infrastructure programs such as China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR, also known as Belt and Road) initiative.

“The Europeans have started too late with developing similar ideas,” Altmaier said. But the debate in Europe about industrial policies is changing and Brussels is more willing now to protect its economic interests and secure export markets, he said.

“This will be one of the main tasks for the new European Commission.”

Altmaier said the European Union was the only large trading bloc in the world backing World Trade Organization (WTO) reform without any conditions.

“We want disputed issues such as market access and protection of intellectual property to get addressed. In this area, we’re pulling together with the U.S.,” Altmaier said.

By Michael Nienaber & Christian Kraemer