Berlin to push hard for EU-India trade deal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed on German aid and investments worth $1.54 billion a year.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed on German aid and investments worth $1.54 billion a year.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Merkel pledges to hasten progress after Trump slams her country's US trade surplus

BERLIN • Germany will push hard in Brussels for progress to be made on a free-trade agreement between India and the European Union, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said in a speech warning of growing "protectionist tendencies" worldwide.

"It's important to us that we make progress on the German-Indian, or rather EU-Indian free trade agreement," she said at a Berlin business forum, where she shared a platform with her Indian counterpart, Mr Narendra Modi, yesterday. "We will do a major push in Brussels to ensure that these negotiations progress again."

Her remarks come after United States President Donald Trump repeated his criticism of Germany's trade surplus with his country, tweeting that the "MASSIVE" US trade deficit with Europe's largest economy "will change".

The US leader's vitriol in an early- morning tweet was issued as Dr Merkel hosted Mr Modi in Berlin, where they held a joint Cabinet meeting and signed cooperation agreements in fields from sustainable urban development to digital technology.

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Both sides also agreed on German development aid and investments worth around €1 billion (S$1.54 billion) a year.

Mr Modi told the forum that economic collaboration between Germany and India was still "below full potential".

Dr Merkel, seeking to repair damage after shocking Washington on Sunday by declaring the era in which Europe could rely on its partners was somewhat over, repeatedly stressed the importance of transatlantic ties but also highlighted Germany's history of cooperating with India and China in a "global world".

FORGE ITS OWN PATH

What I said was simply to indicate that, here are even more reasons beyond those we already have that Europe needs to take its destiny into its own hands.

CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL

On Monday, Dr Merkel had underlined her doubts about the reliability of the US as an ally.

Alongside Mr Modi, Dr Merkel said that while transatlantic relations are of "paramount significance", the EU had to forge its own path in the world "considering the current situation".

"What I said was simply to indicate that, here are even more reasons beyond those we already have that Europe needs to take its destiny into its own hands," she said.

In a thinly veiled dig at the Trump administration, Dr Merkel said "protectionist tendencies" were increasing worldwide and this made it necessary to remain open and ensure conditions for negotiations are fair.

Dr Merkel also praised India for its commitment to the Paris climate pact, as Mr Modi said people had no right to ruin the environment for future generations.

Many of his comments made yesterday contrasted sharply with positions of Mr Trump, who has denied climate change, criticised the EU, predicted more countries will leave the EU and spoken out against free trade while pushing an "America First" policy.

In a sign of Berlin's shifting focus towards Asia, Dr Merkel is also due to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang today.

Mr Modi's tour also leads him to Spain, France and Russia - but not to former colonial power Britain, which is set to leave the EU by 2019.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'Berlin to push hard for EU-India trade deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe