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Diplomacy

China President Xi Jinping pays visit to major trade partner Germany

Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived in Germany for the third leg of his EU tour. While trade will likely dominate talks, Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine are also expected to be on the agenda.

Upon his arrival at Berlin's Tegel airport on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping told reporters he had high hopes for his two-day visit to Germany, China's most important trade partner in Europe.

"I'm attaching the expectation to this state visit [that we will] draw up a blueprint for Germany and China's future relationship," Xi told reportersat Berlin Tegel Airport.

The Chinese leader and his wife, Peng Liyuan, were then received at Schloss Bellevue by German President Joachim Gauck with military honors.

President Xi's two-day visit is his first to Germany since taking office last year. On Friday afternoon, he was scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel following his lunch with the German president. Xi was also expected to deliver a speech later in the day about China's role in the world. Following his Berlin visit, he was scheduled to visit EU headquarters in Brussels.

Xi: enormous possibilites for trade ties

Ahead of his arrival in Berlin on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed his optimism for closer economic ties with Germany, which is already its most important trade partner in Europe.

The Chinese president described relations between the two economic powerhouses as "close," in a commentary published on Friday in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Cooperation between China and Germany - the leading economies in Asia and the EU - could open the world to enormous possibilities of economic growth, he added.

China is Germany's most important trade partner in Asia and second most important globally after the US. According to provisional figures the government statistics agency Destatis, the value of exports to China - mainly vehicles, machines, electrical and chemical products - reached 67 billion euros ($92.1 billion) in 2013. Meanwhile, imports from the Asian country cost 73.4 billion euros in total.

For its part, Germany ranks as China's sixth most important trade partner in the world, and its most important in the EU.

President Xi's two-day visit was to be his first to Germany since taking office last year. On Friday afternoon, he was scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck. The Chinese president was also expected to deliver a speech later in the day about China's role in the world. Following his Berlin visit, Xi was scheduled to visit EU headquarters in Brussels.

Trade deals unclear

While economics was expected to dominate talks, few rumors were circulating ahead of the meeting with the chancellor on Friday regarding potential trade deals between Berlin and Beijing.

Daimler reportedly planned to sign commercial accords worth an estimated total of 18 billion euros ($24.7 billion) with Beijing Automative, according to the German dpa news agency, which cited company sources. The companies have had a joint venture for the past decade, resulting in a 12 percent investment in the China-based company. Daimler's Mercedes carmaker has production facilities in China building it E- and C-class vehicles, as well as its GLK-class sports utility vehicle. The company plans to add a fourth model to the production line soon.

Germany's financial paper Handelsblatt also reported plans for a preliminary agreement between Germany and China's central banks which could pave the way for the establishment of a trading center for the Chinese yuan currency in Frankfurt.

Xi's first European visit has already focused on foreign investment, on the most recent leg his trip, in France, he signed off on an order with the European aviation giant Airbus worth 10 billion euros. Xi's planned visit to Brussels is also seen as a move to strengthen economic ties with the 28-member bloc.

Coaxing China away from Russia

China's alliance with Russia is also expected to be on Friday's agenda. In recent weeks, diplomatic ties between Western leaders and Russia have deteriorated over Moscow's refusal to recognize the interim government in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended his government's stance , as well as its subsequent annexation of Crimea - which voted on March 16 to secede from Ukraine - as a justified reunification of territory lost after the fall of the USSR.

Thus far, Beijing has remained largely supportive of Moscow. Last month, however, it opted to abstain from a UN Security Council vote to condemn the Crimea's referendum - forcing Russia to veto the motion alone. Self determination and territorial integrity is a sensitive issue for the Chinese government, home to several territories and groups seeking secession from China.

Amid the threat of major trade disruptions and sanctions with Russia, Chancellor Merkel's meeting with the Chinese leader has been portrayed as a window of opportunity to secure more cooperation from Xi in smoothing tensions with Moscow.

kms/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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