Merkel warned of ‘endless frictions’ with Joe Biden unless Chancellor backs down on China

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The German Chancellor will meet the US leader in a virtual meeting of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) together with French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Speaking at the virtual Davos World Economic Forum in January, Mrs Merkel downplayed the US President’s call for Europe to pick sides between the US and China.

But the German leader has now been warned that if the EU fails to see eye-to-eye with the US on China, the bloc will have to brace for “endless frictions” with its American allies.

The warning came from MSC Chairman Wolfgang Ischingert who told DW news he hopes EU leaders will address the issue at the conference later today.

The former German ambassador to the US said: “If we fail to see eye-to-eye on China, we’re going to have endless problems, endless friction, across the Atlantic.

“Our interests in regards to China are not identical.” 

Speaking at Davos, the Chancellor said: “I would very much wish to avoid the building of blocs. I don’t think it would do justice to many societies if we were to say this is the United States and over there in China and we are grouping around either the one or the other.

“This is not my understanding of how things ought to be.”

Mrs Merkel went on to say she “agreed” with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“The Chinese president spoke yesterday, and he and I agree on that. We see a need for multilateralism,” she said.

But she quickly moved on to question the Chinese leader’s call for more transatlantic cooperation to avoid new “cold wars”.

She said: “But there is one question where we are not in immediate agreement.

“Probably the question of what it means when you have different social models.

“When does interference begin and where does it end? When do you stand up for elementary values that are indivisible?”

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Praising the EU-China investment agreement, the German leader said she was “so satisfied”.

She then called for President Biden to find common ground with the EU on taxing digital companies.

The long-delayed investment deal was agreed between Brussels and Beijing in December.

It faced immediate criticism from European Parliament members and others for not including binding commitments on workers’ rights.

The deal states China “will no longer be able to prohibit access or introduce new discriminatory practices” on manufacturing and some service sectors too.

But EU leaders have already been warned against trusting that China will stick to the rules.

US author Michael Schuman told Politico earlier this month: “Simply hoping the Chinese will play fair is naïve.

“While Beijing threatens and blusters that Europeans must keep their markets open to 5G gear from Huawei, the Chinese are sidelining European telecom firms in the China market.

“Ultimately, China is simply not a true partner for Europe. The longer Europeans fail to grasp this, the weaker their position will become. China will continue to exploit the divisions between democracies to advance its interests.

“European politicians will strain relations with the US by cynically reaping economic benefits from China while Washington does all the fighting.

“By the time Europe realises it needs America’s help, it could discover Washington has found other, more reliable friends.

“Ultimately, the choice between the US and China should be determined by what Europeans want their role in the world to be.

“They could defend the liberal order they helped create and continue to participate in global leadership.

“Or they could sit back and watch authoritarian China knock away the pillars of the current order, and the sources of European influence with them.”

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