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BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang stressed their commitment to a multilateral trade system Monday in the wake of Washington’s decision to impose widespread tariffs, saying it was to everyone’s benefit.

Speaking in Berlin after the two countries signed deals worth 20 billion euros ($23.6bn), Li told reporters the projects demonstrated how nations could work together.

In addition to multiple joint cooperation projects between governmental agencies, companies like BASF, BMW, Volkswagen, Daimler, Siemens and Bosch announced deals and partnerships.

“Free trade plays a strong leading role for both sides and for the world economy,” Li said through an interpreter in the Berlin chancellery.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump imposed 25 per cent tariffs on $34bn of Chinese goods in response to complaints Beijing steals or pressuring companies to hand over technology. China announced retaliatory tariffs on a similar amount of US goods.

Trump has also imposed tariffs on aluminum and steel imports that include the European Union, and has threatened additional tariffs on products like automobiles, singling out Germany in particular.

Bavaria-based automaker BMW has already been caught in the middle of escalating trade strife between the US and China, saying Monday it would have to raise prices on SUVs it builds in the US that it exports to China, after Beijing raised the import tax on cars from the United States to 40pc from 15pc.

“We have a lot of direct investment in the United States of America, we have a lot of direct investment in China,” Merkel said.

“It really is a multilateral interdependent system that at its best most likely is really a plurilateral win-win situation when we stick to the rules.” She also applauded China for relaxing rules on foreign investment, saying that it was important to see “the market opening in China in this area is not only words, but is also being followed by deeds.”

In one deal finalised on Monday, Chinese firm CATL announced that it would build a factory in the German state of Thuringia to build batteries to supply to BMW for use in electric cars.

BMW said it had agreed to purchase 4bn euros worth of batteries, with 1.5bn euros of sales in Germany and 2.5bn in China.

Merkel said the company brings a product and technology to Germany that wasn’t previously available.

She added, however: “If we could do it ourselves, I’d also not be sad.”

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2018