BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for a concerted effort to defend free trade, expanding the list of economic powers joining together to counter the U.S. shift toward protectionism.
Barely 48 hours after Merkel and President Donald Trump clashed on economic policy at their first White House meeting, the German leader called for swift conclusion of a trade accord between Japan and the European Union. That followed a renewed German-Chinese commitment to open markets on the eve of her trip to Washington and Merkel’s backing for a free-trade accord between the EU and Mercosur, the South American economic bloc.
“Of course we want fair markets, but we don’t want to put up barriers,” Merkel said Sunday evening in a speech in Hanover, Germany, pushing back against Trump’s pledge to enact “America First” policies. “At a time when we have to quarrel with many about free trade, open borders and democratic values, it’s a good sign that Germany and Japan aren’t quarreling about that.”
Abe said Japan, the EU’s second-biggest Asian trading partner after China, “wants to be the champion of upholding open systems alongside Germany.” The prime minister, who met Trump in February, said “it will be necessary to have rules that are fair and can stand up to democratic appraisal.” Abe and Merkel are due to give a press briefing later on Monday at the Hanover trade fair, where Japan is this year’s partner country.