BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany needs a more open discussion on how it can reduce its over-reliance on China in many areas as the COVID-19 pandemic has increased its economic dependency on Asia’s resurgent giant, acting Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Wednesday.
“We have experienced and had to experience how dependent we have become on China,” Spahn said at an economic conference organised by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.
“This alone would be worth discussing on an economic summit on its own, the question of how we can at least become a bit less dependent on China again in the 2020s,” Spahn added.
Spahn, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, said that Germany was too dependent for example on imports from China in areas such as face masks and medical precursors. It should also do more to diversify its export markets.
“Is this a good thing to have such a high degree of dependency? I think the answer is no. You can’t solve this in a few years, it’s a challenge for a decade,” Spahn said.
Germany and the European Union should reduce their over-reliance on China by sealing and finalising more trade deals with other countries and regions such as Canada, he said.
The three parties working to form Germany’s next ruling coalition are at odds over China.
Greens co-leader Annalena Baerbock has suggested imposing tougher barriers for Chinese imports to prevent price dumping, and pushing back against poor environmental standards and human right violations.
Chancellor-in-waiting Olaf Scholz from the centre-left Social Democrats avoided making clear statements on China during the election campaign.
Scholz aides have hinted, however, that the former mayor of the port city of Hamburg, which has even closer business ties to China, is likely to continue Merkel’s more mercantile approach which puts business interests ahead of moral considerations.
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Riham Alkousaa and Paul Carrel)