China and Germany are looking to sign a cybersecurity agreement similar to one that exists between the Asian nation and the United States, Bloomberg reported Thursday. While details of the potential deal are not yet known, the agreement is likely to be reached “very quickly,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly said Thursday in Beijing.
The Chinese government and hackers traced back to the country have long been accused of cyberespionage -- targeting foreign firms and governments for economic gains. However, speaking at an event in Beijing, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang denied the allegations.
“We are against cyber theft and the stealing of trade secrets,” Li reportedly said.
China is currently one of Germany’s biggest trade partners. Bilateral trade between the two countries stood at 154 billion euros ($168 billion) in 2014, making the latter China’s largest trading partner in the European Union. However, German officials have, in the past, expressed fears over small and medium-sized German companies being targeted by China’s espionage activities.
“This is a big and important step upon which one can build,” Sandro Gaycken, a cybersecurity expert at Berlin’s European School of Management and Technology who reportedly helped frame the deal, told Bloomberg. “China is very active in economic espionage, and Germany has been an attractive target because of the many technological innovations that are happening at Mittelstand [mid-level] companies that traditionally have weak IT-security systems.”
However, the effectiveness of such a deal remains open to speculation. A recent report by CrowdStrike Inc. -- an American cybersecurity firm -- alleged that despite the finalization of a new cybersecurity agreement between the U.S. and China -- that bans the hacking of private firms by entities linked to either country for economic gain -- several American companies have continued to face repeated intrusion attempts from China-linked hackers, even during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the U.S. last month.