Germany says China must make good on promise to open markets

Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Economics Minister Brigitte Zypries on Monday forecast big opportunities for German firms to expand trade with China, but urged Beijing to make good on a promise to open its markets and stop insisting that foreign firms create joint ventures.

Zypries told leaders of the German Asia-Pacific Business Association that the Asia-Pacific region was important for German companies, and accounted for 16 percent of German trade. German investments in the region accounted for 15 percent of the total, up from around 6 percent in 2005, the minister said.

She said Germany backed free trade deals in negotiations between the European Union and countries in the region, but warned that China - the largest player - had to change course.

“Opening markets is not a one-way street,” Zypries said. “China should put its words about free trade into action and open its markets, treat foreign companies equitably and give up its insistence that our companies must form joint ventures in China.”

Her comments reflected Germany’s increasing frustration about what it views as Chinese foot-dragging on trade and investment.

Germany last month became the first EU country to tighten its rules on foreign corporate takeovers, with provisions that will allow the German government to block takeovers if there is a risk of critical technology being lost abroad.

German companies, particularly those in the automotive and pharmaceutical sectors, often complain they are forced into joint ventures in order to gain a foothold in China’s lucrative market, while Chinese companies are able to operate abroad.

The two countries agreed in June to expand their partnership amid concern in Germany over U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies on protectionism and climate change.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Andrew Bolton