Merkel’s China visit sees trade deals, Syria talks

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Chinese and German companies signed far-reaching deals worth tens of billions of dollars on Thursday during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Beijing.

Merkel arrived early Thursday with a delegation of 20 business leaders for a two-day visit focused on strengthening economic cooperation and China’s role in international crises.

The chancellor and Chinese premier Li Keqiang presided over several unexpected signings, including a deal for Chinese airlines to buy about 100 A320 aeroplanes and another 30 A330s manufactured by Airbus Group.

The planes have a list price of 17 billion dollars, making the deal “one of the largest orders that China has ever placed” with Airbus, a company representative said following the signing.

Additional agreements included a joint venture between the Frankfurt and Shanghai stock exchanges and strategic cooperation between the German engineering company Voith and the China Three Gorges Corporation, which built the massive dam on the Yangtze River.

Li and Merkel also discussed the conflict in Syria, which has helped trigger the largest population movement toward Europe since World War II.

Li said at a joint press conference that China “will make our contribution to the solution of the Syria conflict” and “provide humanitarian aid assistance to affected countries.”

Merkel told the press conference that she welcomes the “signs for new formats for negotiations.”

“The sooner we can help the people in Syria the better. Looking at 300,000 dead and millions in refuges, time is pressing,” she said of the Syrian conflict.

As Germany searches for ways to stem the influx of migrants, Merkel may have pressed China to use its strong economic relationship with Russia to help improve the situation in war-torn Syria, analysts said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has been criticized by the West.

Merkel was due to meet President Xi Jinping later in the day.

The chancellor’s business delegation also includes new Volkswagen chairman Matthias Mueller, who is expected to speak about the carmaker’s emissions scandal.

On Friday, she was to fly with Li to Hefei in the eastern province of Anhui, where she will meet a local family, visit a village school and participate in a meeting of Chinese and German business leaders.

It is the first time Li has invited a foreign leader to visit his home province.

Her visit comes a week after Xi Jinping visited Britain and declared that China’s relationship with the country will reach a “new height.”

China and Germany have deep diplomatic and economic ties, with the German Chamber of Commerce in China reporting bilateral trade hitting a record high in 2014.

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