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China needs to do more on market access, Merkel tells Li

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a news conference after coalition meetings over stimulus measures to reboot post-coronavirus economy, at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany June 3, 2020. John Macdougall/Pool via REUTERS/Files

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed in a video conference with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang that Beijing needs to take action to open up its market and treat foreign companies fairly, her spokesman said on Thursday.

German firms want better market access in China and more legal certainty for investment. They also complain that the government in Beijing distorts competition with high subsidies.

“She highlighted the need for further steps on market access, reciprocity and equal treatment of foreign companies,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert said of Merkel’s discussion with Li.

“Concluding an ambitious investment agreement between the EU and China is an important element in this process,” Seibert added.

Negotiations on an investment agreement have been underway for six years and should be concluded in 2020.

Merkel told Li that Germany, which takes over the EU’s six-month rotating presidency in July, wants rules-based and free multilateral trade plus a strengthened World Trade Organisation, Seibert said.

German manufacturers depend on both demand and supply chains from China, their country’s biggest trading partner.

Merkel and Li acknowledged three agreements reached between Chinese and German partners ahead of the video conference in which German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier participated, said Seibert, without providing further details.

The pair also discussed their cooperation on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, human rights, the situation in Hong Kong, investment and trade issues in various economic sectors including public procurement and global economic issues.

Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Madeline Chambers