Merkel and Macron take aim at Trump as German leader warns against ‘national chauvinism’ at Davos
Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron set out their vision for Europe as a counterweight to the values of Donald Trump’s America at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday.
In her most pointed attack on President Trump’s policies yet, Mrs Merkel told an audience of global business leaders gathered at the Swiss resort that “protectionism is not the answer” and that judging people according to stereotypes is “the very basis of populism”.
She called for Europe to “take its destiny in its own hands” with a more active and ambitious foreign policy.
President Macron called for the European Union to reform itself this year and come up with a “10-year strategic plan” to compete with China and America.
He called on the EU’s 27 countries not to hold back the most “ambitious” member states from moving forward.
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France “is back at the core of Europe”, Mr Macron said, as he trumpeted the liberal reforms he has enacted in the past eight months.
Mrs Merkel struck a more sombre note, invoking the spectre of two world wars. The world leaders of a century ago had “sleepwalked” into the First World War, she said.
“The generation born after the Second World War must prove it has learned the lessons of history.”
“We see national chauvinism and populism on rise. In many countries there is a populist atmosphere. In all countries there are doubts about whether globalisation will carry everyone with it.”
Motoring picture of the day, January 25, 2018 – Trump lands at Davos
But she insisted the answer did not lie in nationalism or isolation. “Multilateralism is time-consuming. But it’s worth it,” she said. “If we rely on the quick fix of the national solution, then others will respond with their own national solutions.”
President Trump had not yet arrived in Davos, and Mrs Merkel did not refer to him by name, but there was no mistaking the target of many of her remarks.
“If we believe things are not fair, we have to seek multilateral answers, not pursue a unilateral protectionist course where we isolate ourselves,” she said, just days after the Trump administration imposed punitive “America First” tariffs on imports.
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She called for Europe to be more proactive in promoting its values and interests. “Europe hasn’t been very active in its foreign policy,” she said. “We need to take more responsibility. We need to take out destiny in our own hands.”
She regretted Britain’s decision to leave the EU, she said, but at least it had given Europe “the courage to move forwards”.
She took a hard line on Brexit, reiterating her insistence the UK must accept freedom of movement if it wants access to the single market. “It’s in their hands how close they want the partnership to be. We are prepared to be open-minded.”
It was an uncharacteristically powerful speech, and Mrs Merkel appeared to be trying to take back her mantle as Europe’s leader, which has slipped in recent months.
President Macron may be the darling of this year’s World Economic Forum, but for once he had to play second fiddle.
Taking the podium after Mrs Merkel, he leapt to the defence of global free trade ahead of President Trump’s arrival. “In terms of trade we’re moving towards greater protectionism . . . we’re undoing what globalisation has been able to achieve,” he said.
However, after extolling his drive to foster risk-taking at home, he warned of the perils of “Darwinian” globalisation. He slammed a “race to the bottom” among states and companies who acted like “illegal stowaways” when it came to paying tax or respecting international rules.
Speaking in French and English, he said their inability to agree on a “global compact” was threatening to create a “fragmented world” and the rise of nationalism.
Davos World Economic Forum 2018
Digital giants, he said, were in the process of destroying “millions of jobs” with artificial intelligence but failed to pay taxes in France to fund the education of the future workforce, whereas home-grown “start-ups” do.
“If those who destroy the jobs don’t help – as to finance the re-training of people – how am I going to explain this to the working and middle classes?”
Mr Trump was not due to arrive in Davos until Thursday. Mr Macron joked about the heavy snowfall at the Swiss resort, saying it might lead some people to question climate change.
“Fortunately you didn’t invite anybody sceptical of global warming this year,” he said.
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