Donald Trump

Xi, Merkel vow to support free trade ahead of German leader’s meeting with Trump

German chancellor to meet US president in Washington amid concerns that Trump administration will support protectionist trade policies

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 March, 2017, 10:52am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 March, 2017, 10:46pm

Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have stressed their commitment to free trade, ahead of the German leader’s trip to the Washington to meet US President Donald Trump.

The two leaders spoke by phone on Thursday and said they would “support free trade and open markets”, according to a brief statement from Merkel’s office.

Xi was quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency as saying: “As the world’s important economies and staunch supporters of globalisation, China and Germany have the responsibility to push other parties in building an open economy, safeguarding the effectiveness and authority of multilateral trade rules and systems.”

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Xi, Trump and other leaders in the grouping are due to attend a summit in Hamburg in July, which is expected to be dominated by debates on trade protectionism. Germany chairs the G20 group of industrial powers this year.

Governments around the world are concerned that Trump’s “America first” policy could lead the world’s largest economy to start erecting trade barriers to protect its market.

Less than two months into office, Trump has already killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, and threatened punitive tariffs against multinationals with factories outside the US and repeatedly accused China of manipulating its currency.

Terence Chong, an associate professor of economics at Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Xi’s remarks were obviously aimed at Trump.

“If Trump were to enact punitive tariffs against Chinese products and take jobs from Chinese factories back to US, Beijing must make sure the doors of European countries are open, so that there are other places welcoming Chinese exports,” Chong said.

Yan Jin, director of the Centre for European Studies at Renmin University of China, said China and Germany, as the biggest and the third-biggest exporter in the world, could not survive widespread protectionism.

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“Given the huge amount of exports to the world, free trade is to the mutual benefit of both countries,” Yan said.

Chong said China was interested in tapping Germany’s advanced technology.“China is not short of money. Building a good relationship with this hi-tech giant will absolutely help China’s technological development,” he said.

Despite repeated assurances that it supports free trade, China has drawn criticism that it keeps its market largely closed to foreign investment, which benefits domestic companies.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday that China had benefited from globalisation and would remain committed to opening up.

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