More trade deals signed as Merkel visits home province of China’s Li

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang presided over the signing of 15 business agreements during a visit to China’s eastern province of Anhui on Friday.

Chinese companies signed a deal for 100 helicopters from European aircraft manufacturer Airbus for approximately 1 billion euros (1.1 billion dollars).

A production line for the light H135-type helicopter will be established in China as part of the agreement.

Other cooperation agreements were worth a total of around “2 to 3 billion euros,” German delegation sources told dpa.

In total, economic cooperation agreements sealed during Merkel’s two-day visit amounted to around 20 billion euros, the sources said.

Merkel earlier participated in a celebration of 30 years of exchanges between the region’s University of Hefei and German universities.

She was to visit the village of Shen Fu later in the day to learn about China’s rural poverty alleviation efforts, before joining a meeting of Chinese and German business leaders.

It is the first time Li has invited a foreign leader to visit his home province, which is considered an honour.

On Thursday, the chancellor and Li presided over several other signings including a deal for Chinese airlines to buy aeroplanes from Airbus Group with a total list price of 17 billion dollars.

Also Thursday, Merkel raised concerns about China’s territorial disputes with its neighbours in the South China Sea.

“I am always a bit surprised why in this case multinational courts should not be an option for a solution,” she said.

Tensions were raised this week after the United States sent a navy warship within 12 nautical miles of a shoal off the Spratly Islands, which Beijing claims as territory under the name Nansha.

“We wish that the sea trade routes stay free and safe, because they are important for everybody in the region,” Merkel said.

In a Thursday meeting between Merkel and President Xi Jinping, the president urged Germany to speed up negotiation on a China-EU investment treaty, China Radio International reported.

The chancellor in turn pledged to boost bilateral trade, industrial and financial cooperation and participate in the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Germany is China’s leading economic partner in Europe, with the German Chamber of Commerce in China reporting bilateral trade between the two countries hitting a record high in 2014.

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