Germany to Enter Areas Where U.S. Retreats, Top Envoy Says

Updated on
  • Sigmar Gabriel says Germany will act ‘self-confidently’
  • Chancellor Merkel also takes up trade issue at CDU rally

Germany will step into global markets the U.S. abandons and take on a bigger role on the international stage if the administration of President Donald Trump continues its shift toward protectionism, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said.

Speaking on his first day in his new post in Berlin, Gabriel said Germany’s “arms will remain outstretched” to the U.S. to continue the trans-Atlantic alliance between the two nations. He plans to meet Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, “as soon as possible,” he said.

“But we’ll also self-confidently use opportunities that may possibly arise from the withdrawal of the U.S. from international cooperation and the international trade order,” Gabriel told an audience Friday at a handover-of-office ceremony that included his predecessor, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The Trump administration’s move toward protectionism has raised alarm bells in Berlin. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang spoke out in a phone call this week in favor of closer trade ties, signaling a global alliance opposed to Trump’s trade agenda.

Export ‘Champion’

Merkel took up the issue again hours later at a party rally in her Baltic Sea coast constituency, saying Germany will continue to pursue the global trade agenda as an “export world champion.”

“I will continue and we will continue, together with the European Union, to push for trade accords with other nations, because we live on interdependence,” Merkel said at the Christian Democratic Party meeting in Greifswald, Germany.

Echoing Merkel’s words on the day after Trump’s election, Gabriel said German-U.S. cooperation must be based on values of “openness, honesty and the commitment to the ideas in our constitutions -- freedom, democracy and the rule of law, and always mutual responsibility.”

Steinmeier, who is poised to become German president in a special election next month, repeated his criticism of Trump during the campaign, raising the growing global uncertainty over the new U.S. president.

“Exactly a week ago we witnessed another handover of office, whose consequences are still not predictable,” Steinmeier said at the ceremony. “The only certainty is uncertainty.”

— With assistance by Arne Delfs

(Updates with Merkel comments in fifth paragraph.)
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