FRANKFURT: Germany’s economy mi-nister Sigmar Gabriel on Monday launched a fresh attack on “unfair and aggressive trade practices” by China ahead of a visit to the country.
“Ducking away from this confrontation would be just as bad as arrogance and ignorance towards Chinese interests,” he wrote in Die Welt newspaper.
Tensions over trade are mounting between Berlin and Beijing in advance of the visit starting Tuesday, during which Gabriel is due to meet with Premier Li Keqiang.
Gabriel’s remarks follow a refusal at the weekend from Germany’s European Commissioner Guenther Oettinger to walk back comments in which he called the Chinese “slitty eyed” and “chiselers” who were unfairly buying up leading German and EU high-tech firms while blocking deals in the other direction.
In his editorial, Gabriel pointed to China’s selling of subsidised steel abroad, a potential new quota system for electric cars, and Chinese acquisitions of German and European high-tech firms as causing concern in Berlin and across the EU.
Despite an agreement for Beijing to address steel overcapacity reached at September’s G20 meeting in Hangzhou, he argued, China continues to sell the metal at “dumping prices” on global markets in a “blatant infraction” of trade rules.
The European Commission had been forced to slap tariffs on some Chinese steel products in a “measure of last resort,” Gabriel added.
He also took aim at Chinese plans for a quota system for “new energy” vehicles, such as electric cars — which he said could see German car exporters’ edge in internal-combustion engines undermined — and high Chinese hurdles to inward investment by foreign firms that Gabriel argues show a lack of “reciprocity” from Beijing.
“If you want to invest in other parts of the world, you can’t block investment from those countries in your own,” he wrote.
However, Germany and the EU must “learn to distinguish cases where a state-controlled firm links acquiring technologies with geopolitical extension of power,” Gabriel wrote.
Chinese firms have spent a record amount snapping up German companies this year, at 11 billion euros ($12 billion) between January and October according to accountancy firm EY.
Gabriel was unable to block a Chinese buyer taking over renowned robotics firm Kuka, but Berlin has re-opened a probe into a takeover bid for microchip maker Aixtron.
US intelligence warned Berlin that Aixtron’s products could have military applications in China’s nuclear programme, business daily Handelsblatt reported last week.
China’s official Xinhua news agency accused Germany of “delusional ‘China threat’ paranoia” over the investigation.