By Esther Fung

SHANGHAI—China will continue to strengthen intellectual-property protection and improve the business environment for foreign firms, which are entitled to the same treatment as their Chinese counterparts, China Vice Premier Li Keqiang said in an article published in the China Daily on Thursday, the first day of his visit to Germany.

“China will continue to improve foreign business related laws, regulations and policies, and give protection to intellectual property rights in order to provide a level playing field and a stable, orderly, transparent and predictable market environment for all players,” Mr. Li said.

Mr. Li, who is widely expected to succeed Wen Jiabao as China’s premier in two years, is in Germany from Thursday to Sunday on the second leg of a trip to Europe. Mr. Li visited Spain earlier this week and will visit the United Kingdom from Sunday to Wednesday.

In July, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said China hadn’t satisfied all the requirements for attaining market economy status in the eyes of Europe, and that Beijing still had to do more to ensure the protection of intellectual-property rights and equal market access for German firms in China.

Mr. Li said China and Germany can work together to promote bilateral trade and investment and resolve trade frictions through consultation, and that “China welcomes the presence of more foreign investment, particularly in the areas of modern agriculture, high and new technology, new energy and new materials.”

Germany’s investment in China accounts for only 2% of its overseas investment, and China’s investment in Germany is a little more than $1 billion, Mr. Li said, adding that both countries should continue to explore new areas of cooperation such as green technology.

To develop its services sector, China will further open financial and logistics services and steadily open up education, health services and sports to foreign investment, Mr. Li said.

China is aiming to strengthen its ties with the European Union, its biggest trade partner, amid continued pressure from Washington to let the yuan appreciate faster to reduce trade imbalances with the U.S.

“We hope that the EU will relax restrictions on high-tech exports to China, promote the improvement of international trade and financial regime, and develop trade relations that are balanced and sustainable,” Mr. Li said.

Xu Xianping, the vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, said Tuesday the EU should relax controls on high-tech exports to China and quickly grant the country market economy status, while China should strengthen intellectual property protection and improve its business environment.