German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued a staunch joint defence of free trade Sunday, as the United States pushes towards greater protectionism.
"We want free and open markets," Merkel said in a speech in Hanover, a day before the world's biggest computer trade fair, CeBIT, kicks off in the central German city. The event is partnered with Japan this year.
"In these times of inter-connectedness, we want to link together our societies and work together in an equitable way. That's what free trade is about," she said.
She (Munich: SOQ.MU - news) made no direct reference to US President Donald Trump, elected on a protectionist "America First" platform promising to slash trade deficits, but noted that the European Union and Japan are negotiating a free trade deal that may be reached this year.
"At a time when we are arguing a lot over free trade, open borders and democratic values, it's a good sign that Japan and Germany are not arguing" over trade, she said.
Abe, who is in Hanover as part of a European tour, said that Japan "wants to be the champion upholding open systems alongside Germany".
He said it was through connectedness that economies would grow, and called for a swift conclusion to the EU-Japan trade deal.
But he added: "We must not create conditions by which wealth becomes concentrated among only some people."
At a fraught G20 meeting in the German spa town of Baden-Baden on Saturday (Shenzhen: 002291.SZ - news) , the US challenged long-standing global principles surrounding free trade, refusing to renew past anti-protectionist pledges and threatening to reopen negotiations on World Trade Organization deals.
Since taking office, Trump has withdrawn the US from a trans-Pacific free trade pact and attacked export giants China and Germany over their massive trade surpluses.