* China's Li chooses Berlin for first visit to EU as premier
* Germany is by far China's biggest EU trade partner
By Andreas Rinke
BERLIN, May 27 China is ready to open up new
sectors of its economy to German investors, Chinese Premier Li
Keqiang said on Monday, in comments that highlight Beijing's
drive for a special bilateral partnership with Berlin bypassing
"If we both come together in an ideal and optimal way, a
dream team will emerge," Li told representatives of German
business during a visit to Berlin, his first to a European Union
capital since becoming premier in March.
Li urged closer cooperation in manufacturing - an area where
German firms increasingly see China as a competitor as it moves
up the value chain - and he singled out logistics, education and
healthcare as sectors for German investment.
"China is willing to open up this space preferentially to
Germany," said Li, an economist, without elaborating.
The European Commission in Brussels oversees EU trade ties
with third countries and it was unclear how far Beijing could
offer Berlin special access to markets denied to other member
states, but Li's comments underscored the importance of China
and Germany, the world's top two exporters, to each other.
Bilateral trade totalled nearly 150 billion euros in 2011
and Germany accounts for about a third of China's total trade
with the 27-nation EU.
Germany produces the high-quality machinery and equipment
that Chinese companies need to manufacture their goods, many of
which end up back in Germany. China is a giant market for German
luxury cars and state-of-the-art machinery, while Chinese
exports to Germany include textiles, electrical goods and toys.
Underlining the importance of this economic relationship,
Germany along with a number of other EU governments came out on
Monday against the European Commission's plan to impose hefty
duties on solar panel imports from China.
Brussels accuses Chinese firms of selling solar panels at
below cost in Europe and plans to impose duties, making it far
harder for China to gain market share.
German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler said after talks
with Li there was "no need for more sanctions measures", echoing
Chancellor Angela Merkel who had stressed Berlin's commitment to
free trade during her own meeting with the premier on Sunday.
Merkel, who faces an election in September, is keen to avoid
trade tensions with China, the world's second biggest economy.
China has proven a valuable alternative market for German
companies during the euro zone debt crisis, which has badly
dented demand in their more traditional markets nearer to home.
Li also told Roesler China was determined to tackle
intellectual property theft, a longstanding concern among
Western investors, adding: "This also harms the innovation and
motivation of Chinese firms."
The chief executive of industrial giant Siemens,
Peter Loescher, said direct Chinese investment into Germany was
still far too low at 1.2 billion euros against some 35 billion
euros worth of German direct investment in China.