To my knowledge, Italians have never complained about trade. They always find ways to get in. At the time when the U.S. was raising hell about trade with Japan in late 1980s/early 1990s, fashionable boutiques, restaurants and food shops around Tokyo’s Ginza and Omotesando were full of Italian merchandise.

Germany and France are very different stories.

In its dealings with Germany, China has always shrewdly sought to sell its market access in exchange for German technology and managerial know-how. A beaming Chinese Premier Li Keqiang proclaimed during his visit to Germany in May 2013 that the two countries were a “dream team.” To circumvent the European Commission’s trade barriers, Li offered special entries to German manufacturers because Beijing wanted to move from smokestacks to Germany’s ultra-modern, IT-driven production processes.

China got that, partly because Germany was looking for business alternatives to recession-ridden European markets.

With Germany’s 77.6 billion euros worth of exports to China in the first 10 months of this year, China is now Germany’s third-largest export market, after the U.S. and France. Sales to China are slowing, though, and Asia’s largest economy is still one of rare markets where Germans continue to run a relatively small negative balance on goods trade.

For years, German companies in China have been complaining about an increasingly difficult business environment, while the Chinese apparently enjoyed open access to German and other EU markets, and went on a buying spree of hi-tech companies, including a 4.5 billion-euro takeover in 2016 of Kuka, a manufacturer of industrial robots.

Since then, Berlin has restricted Chinese investments in its industries, and German firms have become increasingly concerned that their earlier technology transfers are being used to edge German products out of Chinese and third-country markets.

Last week, the Federation of German Industry issued an alarming report that China was using “price dumping, takeovers of European hi-tech industries and government interventions,” summoning Berlin and the EU to fight those trade practices head-on.

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