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By Michael Nienaber
BERLIN (Reuters) - The European Union must diversify its trade relations, become less dependent on Asian suppliers in certain areas such as medical precursors, and develop its own value chains within the 27-member bloc, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Reuters.
"The coronavirus pandemic has taught us that Europe must stick together and diversify its trade relations," Altmaier said in remarks cleared for publication on Friday.
"That means that there must be no spanner in the works of the EU's internal market and that we have to ensure more resilient supply chains, the development of value chains within the EU, and more legal certainty in international trade."
As Germany currently holds the presidency of the European Union, Altmaier will host a meeting of fellow EU ministers responsible for trade on Monday, with a special focus on global supply chains and the future of the European steel industry.
Altmaier, a close ally of centre-right Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Europe should not turn its back on globalisation as trade and open markets were still powerful engines that could help propel Europe out of the current economic crisis.
Still, greater autonomy coupled with the development of innovative and resilient EU value chains is needed so that Europe "can still play in the premier league of the world's economically successful regions" in the future, Altmaier added.
Asked if Europe and Germany should re-think trade ties with China, Altmaier said that everyone had to acknowledge that in the long term, trade could only work on a level playing field.
"Anyone who wants to enjoy the advantages of the free market in the European Union must also open the doors to European companies," Altmaier said.
While Germany over the past decade has benefited massively from Chinese demand for its machines and cars, officials in Berlin and Brussels have become increasingly frustrated in recent years as China has not fully delivered on its promises to engage in fair and free trade.
(Editing by Maria Sheahan)