April 26, 2017 / 8:57 AM / 4 months ago

German Economy Minister to attend China's New Silk Road summit

German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries holds a Calliope mini computer as she addresses a news conference during G20 digital ministers in Duesseldorf, Germany April 7, 2017.Wolfgang Rattay

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries will attend a summit next month in Beijing on China's ambitious New Silk Road plan aimed at linking Asia, Africa and Europe, adding some weight from Europe to the summit championed by President Xi Jinping.

    The conference is widely seen as the biggest diplomatic event of the year for China as it pushes its initiative to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects from railways and ports to power grids.

    Representing Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of Europe's biggest economy, Zypries will speak at the "One Belt, One Road" summit, said a ministry spokeswoman.

    Most Asian leaders are due to attend as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin, but so far the only Group of Seven industrialised country due to send a leader is Italy.

    China, which has sent signals that it is interested in boosting cooperation with the EU to guard against protectionist steps from the United States under President Donald Trump, has also been hoping for some senior Western leaders to attend.

    Germany has close economic ties to China and Merkel has paid regular visits there in her nearly 12 years in office. Last year China overtook the United States to become Germany's biggest trading partner for the first time.

    Zypries will travel to China from May 12-15 to deliver her speech to the summit and hold some other meetings, said the spokeswoman.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Toby Chopra

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