Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over the signing of a string of deals with automakers and others as he started a visit to Germany today, while Chancellor Angela Merkel prodded him on the importance of free speech.
Xi was making his first visit as president to Germany, Europe's biggest economy, as part of a wider European tour that also has taken him to neighboring France.
Business ties took center stage at Xi's meeting with Merkel. The two leaders oversaw the signing of deals including agreements for automakers Daimler and BMW to deepen ties with their Chinese partners, and a deal between the countries' central banks that will allow yuan-denominated payments to be cleared and settled in Germany's financial center, Frankfurt.
China and Germany, two of the world's 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.
Merkel said Germany would push for the quick conclusion of an investment agreement between China and the European Union "which could also be a precursor for a future free trade agreement."
Merkel also touched on human rights and said she had made clear that "broad and free expression of opinion is of course a very important element to advance a society's creativity." Xi didn't respond to that. Xi's visit comes as the EU has imposed sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. China, Russia's usual ally on the U.N. Security Council.