BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany and China vowed on Thursday to expand their partnership, pledging to continue to fight climate change hours before U.S. President Donald Trump announces whether Washington will quit a global climate deal.
Germany is the first stop for Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on a European tour that comes amid growing concern in Germany over some of Trump's policies, especially on climate change and protectionism.
"China has become a more important and strategic partner," Merkel said at a joint news conference with Li, pointing to political, economic, social and cultural ties.
"We are living in times of global uncertainty and see that we have a responsibility to expand our partnership in all the different areas and to push for a world order based on law," she said.
The two leaders held wide-ranging talks that covered issues including trade, a European Union-China investment deal, civil rights, the North Korea crisis and climate change. They also signed a multitude of business deals.
"We are both ready to contribute to stability in the world,"
the Chinese premier said.
As the world awaits Trump's decision on climate change after he denounced the Paris pact in his 2016 presidential campaign, Li said China was committed to tackling the issue, both via the Paris Agreement and by setting national targets.
"China will stand by its responsibilities on climate change," he told reporters in Berlin, according to a German translation.
At the weekend G7 summit of wealthy nations, European and Canadian officials warned Trump that the United States risked ceding global leadership on combating climate change to China if it withdrew from the Paris accord.
Merkel vented her frustration with Trump on Sunday after what she described as unsatisfactory talks at the meeting of G7 leaders, saying Germany - and Europe - could no longer completely rely on traditional allies. Since then she has hosted Li and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Merkel said she wanted EU talks with China on an investment deal to make quick progress and that this would be a precondition to any free trade deal negotiations.
However, thorny issues remain between the two exporting nations, with Merkel insisting that China opens up its markets and that German firms operating there should have a level playing field. She also said it was important for non-government organizations to work in China to strengthen civil rights.
Li said he believed the two had found a solution on the issue of Chinese quotas for electric cars after a lengthy discussion.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers, Emma Thomasson and Andreas Rinke; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Tom Heneghan)