German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe and the U.S. need joint projects such as the proposed free-trade agreement to strengthen their common bonds in the face of global competition.
In an interview at the Chancellery in Berlin, Merkel said she’ll throw her “full political weight behind” a European Union mandate to start the trade talks. EU trade ministers met in Luxembourg today to discuss the mandate, with France threatening to block talks with the U.S. unless audiovisual works are fully excluded.
“We need big projects together that unite us,” Merkel, the leader of Europe’s biggest economy, said as she prepared to host President Barack Obama for his first official visit to Berlin next week. “I think the United States, as an enormously important economy, and the European as a single market -- if they find a way to conclude a free-trade agreement, it would be a very important signal for both areas.”
While differing with the Obama administration on fiscal policy to stem Europe’s debt crisis, Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, says she’s seeking to put U.S.-European ties and shared values on a new footing after the end of the Cold War two decades ago and the emergence of mutual competitors such as China.
“We had a lot of American presence here, due to, for example, American soldiers” who were stationed in Germany, Merkel said. Now, “we have a changed environment.”
Obama and Merkel have endorsed the goal of starting talks on the free-trade pact, which both sides say would boost growth and create jobs. Before she hosts Obama in Berlin, he and Merkel are due to meet at the summit of Group of Eight leaders in Northern Ireland on June 17 and June 18, where the global economy is among the topics. She and Obama will address an invited audience at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on June 19.
“I think it’s a very good possibility that there’s both from the European side and from the side of the president of the United States a willingness, a readiness to conclude” a free-trade deal, Merkel said. “We ought to use this window of opportunity.”
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