German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) discussed overcapacity in world steel markets and agreed on Saturday to work on solutions within the framework of the G20 group of industrialized nations, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
In a telephone discussion, the two newly re-elected leaders emphasized close ties between the two countries, both facing planned US steel and aluminum tariffs, and agreed to deepen their strategic partnership, Seibert said in a statement.
They also underscored the importance of multilateral cooperation on global trade, a pointed response to an accelerating shift away from multilateral action and institutions by the US under US President Donald Trump.
Chinese state news agency Xinhua said Xi told Merkel that the two countries should “become advocates for new-type international relations” and become cooperation partners despite their ideological differences, with cooperation to be pushed forward within the framework of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
“China-Germany relations will steadily proceed far as long as they adhere to equality and mutual respect, understand and care for each other’s core interests and major concerns, and properly control and handle their differences,” Xinhua said, attributing the comments to Xi.
US officials have said they would seek to work with “like-minded” countries at the G20 finance leaders meeting early next week in Argentina to push back against China’s state subsidies and investment policies.
The Merkel-Xi call came amid tensions between the US, Europe and China over US tariffs, and China’s rejection of US legislation encouraging an exchange of officials between the US and Taiwan.
Merkel and Xi “discussed the problem of global overcapacities in the steel market and backed continued efforts to work toward solutions in the framework of the G20 Global Forum [on Steel Excess Capacity],” Seibert said, referring to a body initiated at the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, in 2016.
“In this regard, they emphasized the importance of close multilateral cooperation on trade,” he said.
Trump has criticized Germany and China for their trade surpluses with the US since taking office last year.
Merkel on Saturday said Germany’s trade surpluses were narrowing due to rising domestic demand, and the government would continue to try to support that trend.
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier is to visit Washington this week to press for an exemption from US steel and aluminum tariffs as part of a broad push by the EU to reverse the US sanctions.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is to discuss the issue at the G20 meeting in Argentina with US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.
The planned US tariffs violated the principles of the WTO and the dispute should be resolved via talks if possible, Merkel said on Friday.
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