Friday 16 November 2018

Merkel warns over trade issues ahead of ‘tough’ G7 talks

The German chancellor was speaking during her first-ever question time in parliament.

Mrs Merkel answered questions from MPs at the German parliament (AP)
Mrs Merkel answered questions from MPs at the German parliament (AP)

By Geir Moulson

German chancellor Angela Merkel has predicted difficult talks at the G7 summit, and warned that she will not accept conclusions on issues like trade that water down the group’s previous statements.

The group of Western powers meets in Charlevoix, Quebec on Friday and Saturday amid growing tensions between the US and its allies after Washington announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear agreement.

The Trump administration also slapped steel and aluminium tariffs on its traditional partners.

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Mrs Merkel remained firm over the possibility of Russia re-forming the G8 nations (AP)

In her first question time in the German parliament after the ruling coalition brought in the format familiar from Westminster, Mrs Merkel said: “It is apparent that we have a serious problem with multilateral agreements here, and so there will be contentious discussions.”

She said Germany will work at least to preserve what was agreed at last year’s G7 and G20 summits on trade and climate.

“I will go in with good will,” Mrs Merkel added.

However, she added that “we must not keep watering down” previous summit conclusions committing the G7 countries to fair multilateral trade and rejecting protectionism.

“There must not be a compromise simply for the sake of a compromise,” she said.

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The atmosphere at the German parliament was a long way removed from that seen at Westminster PMQs (AP)

If an acceptable agreement cannot be agreed, a “chairman’s summary” by the Canadian hosts “is perhaps a more honest path — there is no sense in papering over divisions at will”.

Mrs Merkel was asked by MPs from the nationalist Alternative for Germany, or AfD, and hard-left Left Party whether it would not make sense to talk more with Russia.

AfD MP Michael Espendiller asked whether the G8 format including Russia, which was thrown out after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, should be revived.

Mrs Merkel responded that the G7 is defined by its members’ respect of international law and Russia’s annexation of Crimea was a “flagrant breach” of that. She said Russia’s removal was “unavoidable”.

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Mrs Merkel foresees tough talks at the forthcoming summit in Quebec (AP)

She also noted that Germany has sought to keep in frequent contact with Russia, but said “a format that is explicitly based on respecting international law is not viable for Russia at present”.

German chancellors have not previously interacted directly with MPs in the same way British prime ministers do at their weekly question time.

Mrs Merkel will now face questions three times a year, though some opposition MPs complained that the format is too inflexible.

At Wednesday’s one-hour session, questions and answers were kept to a maximum of a minute each, in a calm but concentrated atmosphere far removed from that often experienced in Westminster.

Press Association

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