Angela merkel joins hands with Shinzo Abe to defend free trade

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sorts her notes during a joint news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington U.S

The Yomiuri ShimbunPrime Minister Shinzo Abe embarked Sunday on a tour of four European countries, including Germany and France, where he plans to talk with leaders and confirm with the European Union the promotion of negotiations for an economic partnership agreement (EPA).

Buoyed by a recent pact with Canada, officials are hoping to use Abe's visit to build momentum.Support is growing for a Japan accord among German automobile manufacturers, one of the most powerful groups in European industry."Europe remains the champion of open, rules-based trade, not least due to signs of protectionism emerging elsewhere", European Council President Donald Tusk declared after the most recent EU summit.

"It's very, very good that Japan says we want a free trade agreement, we want it soon because that could be the right statement and Germany would love to be a driving force behind this".

In his speech, Abe hailed the success of Japan and Germany in achieving remarkable economic growth despite neither country having abundant natural resources.

"We want free and open markets. That's what free trade is about", she said. "We must not create conditions by which wealth becomes concentrated among only some people".

Her comments come after Mr Trump's proposed import tax which has said to have caused upset across Germany after being dubbed the "German tax".

Since taking office, Trump has withdrawn the USA from a trans-Pacific free trade pact and attacked export giants China and Germany over their massive trade surpluses.

Merkel's meeting on Friday (16 March) with Trump in the White House was widely described as icy.

Merkel and Abe's comments follow the G20 meeting which according to some experts reflected rising protectionism in the United States as financial leaders' have dropped their traditionally strong support for free trade.

Trump insisted he was not isolationist, saying: "I'm a free trader but also a fair trader".

Related News: