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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talk during their meeting in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Monday. / Kay Nietfeld, epa

BEIJING (AP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel met the Chinese premier Monday and hailed ties between the two sides as she led a large business delegation on a visit to promote trade with the Asian economic giant.

Merkel met Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in the morning and expressed an interest in the development of China's inland areas. Merkel, who is on her seventh visit to China as chancellor, had landed Sunday in the southwestern city of Chengdu.

"I came to understand this yesterday in Chengdu, where I felt the vitality of this western Chinese city. I saw that China's development is not only limited to coastal areas but also taking place in the west," Merkel said in opening remarks, before reporters were ushered out of the room. "I'm looking forward to engaging in deep discussions."

Merkel said talks between the two sides would also cover social issues and human rights. Later Monday, she would attend a meeting of the China-Germany Economic and Trade Commission and meet with President Xi Jinping, who visited Berlin in March.

In March, Xi visited Germany and with Merkel oversaw the signing of deals including agreements for automakers Daimler AG and BMW AG to deepen ties with their Chinese partners.

"China-Germany relations are at their best in history," said China's official Xinhua News Agency on Sunday, "strongly underpinned by the pragmatic cooperation between the two economic heavyweights."

It pointed out that Germany is China's largest trading partner in Europe, while China is Germany's biggest in the Asia-Pacific region.

Negotiations with Iran to end its nuclear program and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine may also come up in Monday's discussions. Both China and Germany are part of the six-nation group that is trying to thrash out a nuclear deal with Iran. Merkel has been a key figure in trying to reduce tensions in Ukraine and get Russia to cooperate.

In Chengdu on Sunday, Merkel met members of a German-Chinese dialogue forum, attended a forum on urbanization cooperation between the local province and Germany, and visited a Volkswagen production plant which employs about 7,300 people.

On Tuesday, she will give a speech to students at Beijing's Tsinghua University.

China and Germany, the world's two leading exporters, had a bilateral trade volume last year of 140.4 billion euros ($193 billion), making China Germany's No. 3 trade partner, ahead of the United States.



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read the original story: Merkel brings German business leaders to China

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