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Germany and EU urged to take advantage of US protectionism

Germany is looking to take advantage of trade opportunities in Asia and South America from the United States turning protectionist.

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Germany and EU urged to take advantage of US protectionism

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Germany is looking to take advantage of trade opportunities in Asia and South America from the United States turning protectionist.

After President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, Germany’s Vice-Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Trump is shutting doors which can open for other countries.

Take advantage

Gabriel, addressing an energy industry summit in Berlin on Tuesday, said: “Of course, if the US president starts a trade conflict – I don’t want to call it ‘trade war’ – with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and with China. Of course, we in Europe should tell the ASEAN states and also China and India: ‘We have no interest in a trade conflict, we want to be fair partners’ – and we have to ask China to reciprocate – but we should take advantage of the opportunities that open up.”

Of Trump he said: “He will run a protectionist and nationalist programme, and we cannot respond in the same way. We need to act by becoming more competitive, investing in our infrastructure, in digitalisation, in education, we simply need to get better. And we need to look for partners who want to achieve those things with us and I believe they exist. When someone shuts doors – and he is shutting doors – others open somewhere else, that I am sure of.”

USA 10%, Europe 60%

Earlier in an interview with the Handelsblatt newspaper, Gabriel pointed out that just 10 percent of German exports go to the US, while 60 percent go to other countries in Europe which shows where its economic interests lie.

“Germany should act with self-confidence and not be fearful or servile,” he said, given that it is a “highly successful, technologically advanced export nation with many hard-working people and smart companies.”

Trade barriers “doomed to fail”

The European Union’s partners have thrown more energy into trade talks with the bloc since Donald Trump’s election, the EU’s trade chief said on Tuesday, warning that those backing trade barriers were “doomed to fail”.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said EU-US trade negotiations were “firmly in the freezer” and that, while the United States was the EU’s most important partner, there was a long list of countries wanting to deal with the 28-nation bloc.

“If anything, since November, we have seen many of our partners throw more energy and more resources at their negotiations with the EU,” she told a conference at the Bruegel economic think tank in Brussels.

Trade essential for jobs

Trade was essential for employment – with some 31 million European jobs dependent on exports – and was a way to spread good values and standards across the globe and to lift people in developing countries out of poverty, Malmstrom said.

Most countries, she said, still shared the same vision, believing in the benefits of open trade and investments.

“Those who, in the 21st century, think that we can become great again by rebuilding borders, reimposing trade barriers, restricting people’s freedom to move, are doomed to fail,” she said in what also appeared to be a dig at Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.