(Adds quotes, Merkel call with Xi)
BERLIN, March 16 Export powerhouse Germany on
Thursday criticised U.S. moves to challenge international
treaties as Chancellor Angela Merkel headed to Washington for a
first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Trump has unsettled allies around the world by challenging
multilateral trade agreements and other treaties, while accusing
Germany, China and others of manipulating their currencies to
Such questioning jeopardised Germany's stability, but would
also harm the United States in the long-run, German Foreign
Minister Sigmar Gabriel told a conference on international law.
He said the new U.S. administration's demand to negotiate
only bilateral trade deals posed significant political and
economic challenges for Germany as the largest economy in Europe
and a key member of the European Union, which negotiates trade
deals on behalf of its members.
"That endangers the stability of our country, and in the
end, I think it will also harm the stability of the United
States," he said.
German leaders hope to revisit plans for a European-U.S.
trade agreement in several years, heartened by the fact the
Trump has not specifically targeted that potential trade deal
while blasting other free trade pacts with Canada and Mexico,
and some Asian countries.
They have also said Germany could step into the void left as
Washington withdraws from the international stage.
Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in a phone
call on Thursday to work together for free trade and open
markets, a German government spokesman said.
"They spoke in particular about the conditions to expand
electromobility in China which will allow the German auto
industry to continue to be successful in the Chinese market,"
said the spokesman.
Gabriel said Germany would work with the Trump
administration to underscore the importance of a international
treaties. But it would likely take "many visits to the United
States" to get the message across, he added.
Trade will be a key issue when Merkel meets with Trump for
over two hours on Friday, followed by a working lunch. The talks
are also expected to focus on foreign policy issues ranging from
NATO and Russia to Syria, Middle East peace, Iran, North Korea
and the European Union.
The German leader will be accompanied by top executives from
three German companies, including engineering group Siemens
and carmaker BMW.
Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on German carmakers
that import into the United States and has criticised Berlin for
not spending more on defence. Another source of tension is
Germany's 50 billion-euro trade surplus with the United States.
The United States is Germany's biggest export destination,
buying German goods and services worth 107 billion euros ($114
billion) last year while exporting just 58 billion euros' worth
It is Germany's third-largest trading partner, just behind
China and France. Merkel said German companies employ about
750,000 people in the United States and 1 million to 2 million
jobs in the United States depend indirectly on German companies.
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing
by Madeline Chambers and Alison Williams)