Merkel Rebuffs Critics of German Trade Surplus in G-20 Message

  • Renews defense of free-trade ahead talks with global peers
  • ‘Proud that our products are in demand,’ German leader says

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said free trade is the best path to growth and rejected criticism of her country’s trade surplus, laying down markers for talks with global leaders including U.S. President Donald Trump.

Merkel, who will host leaders of the Group of 20 nations for a summit in Hamburg in July, acknowledged that “there’s a debate” about “whether it’s problematic for us to have a foreign-trade surplus.” One way to address it is by promoting domestic investment in infrastructure, which her government has done, the chancellor said in her weekly podcast Saturday.

Angela Merkel

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

“But let me also say quite self-confidently: We’re proud that our products are in demand around the world,” Merkel said.

Her comments underscore the stakes for Germany, Europe’s biggest economy and the world’s No. 3 exporter, as Trump takes aim at U.S. trading partners. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble last month rebuffed U.S. allegations that Germany is exploiting its strong position within the euro area to gain an unfair advantage.

Trump said Thursday he wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. Earlier in the week, Trump set off a trade fight by imposing tariffs of as much as 24 percent on Canadian softwood lumber, reigniting a long-running dispute the two nations settled in 2006.

Germany “and many others along with us believe that an open world, with a fair competition for the best solutions, is the best response” in the quest for “a good life for everyone,” Merkel said in the podcast. That includes the challenge that “classic industrial tasks” have shifted to emerging economies such as China and India, she said.

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