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TRADE WARS
Merkel, Xi defend free trade ahead of G20 meet
by Staff Writers
Berlin (AFP) March 16, 2017


German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday stressed their commitment to free trade ahead of a G20 finance ministers' meeting set to be dominated by debate on protectionism.

The two leaders spoke by telephone and said in a statement issued in Berlin that they would "together fight for free trade and open markets".

Finance ministers from the world's top economies are gathering in Germany from Friday as fears grow that US President Donald Trump could upend the global economic order with his "America First" policy.

Meanwhile Merkel is set to hold her first meeting with Trump in Washington on Friday, on a trip on which she will be accompanied by a top-rung German business delegation.

Within two months of taking office, Trump has already torn up the trans-Pacific free trade pact, threatened punitive tariffs against multinationals with factories outside the United States and attacked "currency manipulation" by export giant China.

White House economic advisor Peter Navarro in January accused Germany and China of taking advantage of weak currencies to build a trade surplus with the United States.

In their statement, Merkel and Xi "agreed to maintain their close cooperation, in particular in the context of the German G20 presidency" this year, which will include a July summit in Hamburg.

On the eve of the finance ministers' meeting, Germany's Wolfgang Schaeuble was set to host US counterpart Steven Mnuchin later Thursday in Berlin for their first official talks.

At a separate conference in Frankfurt, Schaeuble added his voice to the chorus touting free trade.

"If we have learned something from the past, it is that nationalism and protectionism are never the right response," he said.

"Isolationism is always the wrong choice. It may be tempting in the short term but in the long run, it only serves to undermine confidence."

A statement is produced at the end of the two-day G20 meeting that has in past sessions consistently committed signatories to rejecting protectionism and refraining from competitive currency devaluations.

But fears are running high that this year's communique may have to sidestep the issue.

Business daily Handelsblatt reported that Germany was trying to strike a compromise with a "list of principles" but had yet to get all sides on board.

The conversation between Merkel and Xi also covered "market conditions for expanding electromobility in China" to allow the Germany auto industry "to continue to be successful in the Chinese market", the statement by Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

TRADE WARS
Ivanka Trump is exception to dad's 'Buy American' rule
Beijing (AFP) March 12, 2017
In his January inauguration speech, US President Donald Trump made a seemingly straightforward pledge: "We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American." His daughter is the exception: even as he spoke, at least eight shipments of Ivanka Trump-branded shoes, bags and clothes - more than 53.5 tonnes - were steaming towards American ports from China, according to US Customs b ... read more

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