Source: South China Morning Post
Economy Minister Robert Habeck says Berlin will not hold back criticism of human rights violations under threat of losing business
New measures to reduce dependence on Chinese raw materials, batteries and chips will also include closer examination of investments, such as infrastructure
Germany’s economy minister said on Tuesday the government was working on a new trade policy with China to reduce dependence on Chinese raw materials, batteries and semiconductors, promising “no more naivety” in trade dealings with Beijing.
Sources told Reuters last week the economy ministry was considering a raft of new measures to make business with China less attractive. This is the first time the minister has made clear the tougher line was being translated into policy measures.
Robert Habeck told Reuters that China was a welcome trading partner, but Germany could not allow Beijing’s protectionism to distort competition and would not hold back criticism of human rights violations under threat of losing business.
“We cannot allow ourselves to be blackmailed,” he said in an interview.
Habeck did not outline new measures in full, but said they would include closer examination of Chinese investments in Europe, such as infrastructure.
But the centre-left government is taking a tougher line towards Beijing than its centre-right predecessor, worried about Germany’s dependence on Asia’s economic superpower.
Habeck said Germany must open up to new trading partners and regions as many sectors were heavily dependent on selling to China.
“If [the Chinese market] were to close, which is not likely at the moment … we would have extreme sales problems,” Habeck said, adding the economy ministry was contributing to the new German-China policy, much of which is already in place.
“And from this you will see that there is no more naivety,” he added.
As an example, Habeck signalled he was opposed to plans by China’s Cosco to buy a stake in a container operator at Germany’s Hafen Hamburg port, signalling concerns about Chinese takeover deals are spreading out from the technology arena into other industry sectors, such as logistics.
China has not joined the West in imposing sweeping sanctions on Moscow following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but has also not endorsed Moscow’s actions as Beijing needs to maintain trade relations with Europe.