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China Holds Talks with 2 Major Trading Partners - 2001-11-01

China is holding talks with two of its major trading partners, signing deals worth billions of dollars with Germany while bickering with Japan. Officials say the fast-growing Chinese economy has been only slightly slowed by the global economic downturn.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is on a three-day visit to China to talk over trade and the war on terrorism. He began Wednesday by meeting with Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji and watching as business leaders signed deals potentially worth four-billion U.S. dollars.

Chancellor Schroeder told journalists the slumping U.S. economy hurts world trade, and makes it wise to push to expand bilateral trade.

Officials here say Germany is China's largest European trading and investment partner, with $25 billion worth of trade last year. That is up by more than a third since 1999.

Two deals with German chemical companies had been in the works for some time. More than two dozen other agreements are expected to be signed Thursday. Chancellor Schroeder also will encourage China to buy Europe's Airbus airliners and German technology for a high-speed rail line between Beijing and Shanghai.

China's Foreign Ministry says relations between Germany and China are very good, a sharp contrast to Beijing's squabbling with Japan over a list of economic and emotional issues from trade to textbooks.

Japan's trade with China is more than double Germany's dealings with Beijing, but a small portion of that trade is mired in a dispute over cheap Chinese agricultural exports. In April, Tokyo curbed imports of Chinese leeks, mushrooms and the straw used to make Japanese tatami mats. In response, Beijing slapped big tariffs on Japanese cars, air conditioners and mobile phones.

Talks on resolving the disputes get under way Thursday in Beijing, but Japanese officials have said they do not think the issue will be solved quickly.

The trade problem is made more difficult by Chinese anger on other issues. Among those issues is a dispute over a Japanese-government approved history textbook that critics say minimizes Japan's wartime aggression against its Asian neighbors, including China.