There is 'will' to strengthen euro: Merkel in China

German leader Angela Merkel said Thursday there was "absolute political will" to strengthen the euro, as she held talks with China's premier Wen Jiabao on the eurozone crisis.

"I told Premier Wen that very many reforms are going on now, and that there is an absolute political will to turn the euro into a strong currency again," Merkel told reporters after meeting Wen.

Wen said at a joint press conference held by the two leaders that he was reassured by Merkel's comments on the euro, and that China would continue to invest, but he cautioned that the road to recovery would not be smooth.

"China has always had confidence in the eurozone, and we are happy to see greater use of the renminbi by European countries in trade and economic transactions," he added, referring to China's currency.

Europeans have expressed the hope that China could deploy some of its foreign exchange reserves -- the world's largest -- to invest in European Union bailout funds, although there is little sign of this happening yet.

With the nearly three-year-old eurozone debt crisis showing signs of spreading to China, the world's second largest economy, Beijing views Germany as a key player in tackling the problem.

The two will also be looking to bolster economic ties, with reports emerging that China has signed a $3.5 billion deal with Airbus.

Leading several ministers and a high-powered business delegation, Merkel met Wen at the start of her two-day trip, during which the German chancellor will also travel to an assembly plant of European planemaker Airbus in nearby Tianjin city.

"China and Germany, both as major economies and... manufacturing and exporting giants, have been working together to address the crisis," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao wrote in the state-run China Daily newspaper.

"This bilateral relationship... has gone beyond a bilateral scope and acquired global significance."

Germany is China's top trade partner in the EU with nearly half of all European exports to China coming from Germany. Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of all EU imports from China land in Germany.

Bilateral trade between the two powers reached $169 billion in 2011, an 18.9-percent rise on the previous year.

"Germany is an export-oriented economy, while China has the largest market in the world," Song said, adding the two nations could cooperate on emerging industries, infrastructure and renewable energy, among other areas.

Merkel was also expected to raise non-economic issues with Wen, including sensitive topics such as the Syrian crisis and human rights and press freedom in China.

China has joined Russia in repeatedly using their vetoes to scuttle UN Security Council resolutions aimed at tackling the deadly conflict in Syria, putting them at odds with western powers.

Merkel is likely to raise the issue of the freedom of the press with Wen following complaints by German journalists who say the difficulties of reporting in China are increasing.

Before this visit, German journalists working in China wrote a letter to Merkel saying authorities in Beijing had been "wilfully obstructing" their work by threatening not to renew their visas and intimidating local assistants.

A German official confirmed that the topic of human rights would also be on the agenda, amid pressure on Merkel to raise the issue of Tibet.

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