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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 August 2018

Merkel rejects Trump's vision for trade and security

German chancellor scorns US leader's description of Europe as an American foe

German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds the annual summer news conference in Berlin, Germany, July 20, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds the annual summer news conference in Berlin, Germany, July 20, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Angela Merkel has warned that she no longer sees America as the world power that preserves the peace in the aftermath of President Donald Trump's assault on his country's allies.

The German chancellor vowed to keep lobbying Mr Trump to head off trade tariffs, which could escalate a trade war and threaten the global economy. But she said Europe was still grappling with the challenges thrown down by the America first president.

"I understand the sense in the US of them saying we must play a stronger role in solving conflicts in the world of the 21st century," she said. "Not just militarily, but also politically," she told her annual summer press conference.

"The EU is in a transformation process," she said. "It recognises the seriousness of the situation, but it hasn't yet been resolved whether we are going to rise to the challenges quickly enough."

“On the issue of trade, we have a very serious situation in the world, I want to make that very clear,” Mrs Merkel said.

Tensions over trade are intensifying ahead of a meeting next week in Washington between Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The bloc is set to propose exploring the possibility of reducing car tariffs for several key trade partners, people with knowledge of the plans said earlier this week.

Juncker will make “proposals about how we could get into a discussion process” to avert the threat. “We believe that we would be causing harm on both sides. That’s the position Jean-Claude Juncker will take with him.”

Germany’s export success has been a frequent target of Mr Trump’s attacks. The US president recently referred to Europe as a “foe” on trade issues, days after a contentious meeting with NATO allies including Germany. Levying tariffs on imported vehicles including Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche models would represent a significant blow to Germany’s trademark industry.

Mrs Merkel reiterated her assertion that Europe can no longer count on the U.S. for stability even if trans-Atlantic relations remain critical.

“What we assumed for many decades, that the US is a power that preserves peace – that is no longer a certain factor for the future,” she said.

Asked whether she views Trump as trustworthy partner, Merkel said she won’t give up on trans-Atlantic cooperation. “It’s not as self-evident as we were used to in years past. That means we also have to carry out conflicts more often,” she said.

Domestically, Merkel has weathered a political storm over migration policy with Bavarian allies that threatened her 13-year hold on power. Support for her CDU/CSU alliance has slumped to 29 percent in a July 16 poll from INSA, below the 32.9 percent result in September elections. Given the political crisis, “we can’t really be that mystified by the result,” the chancellor said.

Before embarking on a break for a few weeks without any public appointments, Mrs Merkel called for a multilateral approach, rebuking Trump’s unilateralism.

“You can see that the values and the order that we’ve all become accustomed to are strongly under pressure,” said Merkel. “It is the case that the issues that are important to me and my work, my solid commitment to multilateralism, to working together, to moving toward a win-win situation in that we have advantages for all – that these are not exactly the dominant principles operating today. But I’ll continue to push for it.”

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