Agence France Presse

Berlin, May 3:

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Berlin today ahead of talks with German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder expected to be dominated by trade issues, on the first leg of an 11-day long tour of Europe. The visit is Wen’s first to Germany, which is China’s biggest trade partner and source of technology in Europe, and comes just after the biggest-ever enlargement of the EU, ushered in on Saturday with the inclusion of 10 new member states. Wen, who is being accompanied by an 80-strong economic delegation and several government ministers, arrived yesterday in the southern German state of Bavaria where he visited a plant run by Audi, a unit of the Volkswagen automaking group. Today, the premier visited a gas turbine plant run by electronics giant Siemens and was to travel later to the eastern city of Potsdam outside Berlin. In the evening, the 61-year-old Wen will be welcomed at the federal chancellery with military honors before talks with Schroeder, whom he met for the first time in Beijing in December.

Schroeder is keen to tap into the huge potential of the world’s most populous nation by promoting tighter business links. China is also Germany’s biggest trade partner in Asia with bilateral trade in 2002 valued at $27.8 billion. Wen said that China hopes to double its trade with Germany by the year 2010. Volkswagen used the occasion of Wen’s visit to announce the signature of a partnership deal with a Shanghai group to build a factory capable of producing 150,000 cars annually. The German manufacturer aims to build 1.6 million cars in China by 2008. According to the media, a number of other bilateral contracts are to be signed on the sidelines of Wen’s visit, with the engineering giant Siemens, chemical-pharmaceutical group Bayer, semiconductor manufacturer Infineon and chemical group Degussa. During the talks with Schroeder, two key issues in bilateral relations are not expected to be addressed: a controversial plan for China to buy a nuclear power facility from Siemens, and Schroeder’s call for the arms embargo against Beijing to be lifted