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Merkel heads to China, corporate chiefs in tow

BERLIN--German Chancellor Angela Merkel heads to China this weekend for her seventh visit, eager to deepen trade and investment ties between the export powerhouses of Europe and Asia.

For the EU's biggest economy, China is a crucial mass market, where companies want its technology and millions of newly prosperous crave German goods from Audi sedans to luxury home appliances.

Merkel is set to travel with a high-powered business delegation including top executives of Siemens, VW, Airbus, Lufthansa and Deutsche Bank, the Bild daily reported this week.

Government officials did not confirm the line-up but said corporate chieftains hope to sign deals in Beijing's Great Hall of the People that could further cement bilateral business ties.

China is Germany's number-two export market outside Europe after the United States. It sold goods worth 67 billion euros (US$91 billion) to China last year, while imports from the Asian giant topped 73 billion euros.

“Over the last decade or so German exports to China have grown exponentially,” said Hans Kundnani, research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“The big turning point was the 2008-09 financial crisis and the subsequent euro crisis, when the bottom fell out of some of Germany's markets in Europe and ... the Chinese market became even more important.

“There is now this almost perfect symbiosis: Germany needs an export market and China needs technology.”

State Honors, Military Pomp

During her past trips, Merkel has been demonstrably impressed with China's rapid economic transformation.

She has often argued that crisis-hit Europe needs to shape up and reform if it wants to survive on the global market place as populous giants like China continue to develop.

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