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Merkel, Xi agree to work on steel overcapacity within G-20

Both leaders underscore the importance of multilateral cooperation on global trade

Berlin

GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed overcapacity in world steel markets and agreed on Saturday to work on solutions within the framework of the G-20 group of industrialised nations, Merkel's spokesman said.

In a telephone discussion, the two newly re-elected leaders emphasised close ties between the two countries, both facing planned US steel and aluminium tariffs, and agreed to deepen their strategic partnership, Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

They also underscored the importance of multilateral cooperation on global trade, a pointed response to an accelerating shift away from multilateral action and institutions by the United States under President Donald Trump.

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Chinese state news agency Xinhua said Mr Xi told Mrs Merkel that the two countries should "become advocates for new-type international relations" and become cooperation partners despite their ideological differences, with cooperation to be pushed forward within the framework of the Belt and Road initiative.

"China-Germany relations will steadily proceed far as long as they adhere to equality and mutual respect, understand and care for each other's core interests and major concerns, and properly control and handle their differences," Xinhua said, attributing the comments to Mr Xi.

US officials have said they will seek to work with "like-minded" countries at the Group of 20 finance leaders meeting in Argentina to push back against China's state subsidies and investment policies.

The Merkel-Xi call came amid tensions between the United States, Europe and China over US tariffs, and China's rejection of US legislation encouraging an exchange of officials between the US and Taiwan. China considers self-ruled and democratic Taiwan a wayward province ineligible for state-to-state relations.

Mrs Merkel and Mr Xi "discussed the problem of global overcapacities in the steel market and backed continued efforts to work toward solutions in the framework of the G-20 Global Forum (on Steel Excess Capacity)", Mr Seibert said, referring to a body initiated at the G-20 summit in Hangzhou, China, in 2016. "In this regard, they emphasised the importance of close multilateral cooperation on trade," he said.

Mr Trump has criticised both Germany and China for their trade surpluses with the United States since taking office in 2017.

Mrs Merkel on Saturday said Germany's trade surpluses were narrowing due to rising domestic demand, and the government would continue to try to support that trend.

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier will visit Washington during the week to press for an exemption from US steel and aluminium tariffs as part of a broad push by the European Union to reverse the US sanctions.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz will discuss the issue at the G-20 meeting in Argentina with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mrs Merkel said on Friday that the planned US tariffs violated the principles of the World Trade Organization and the dispute should be resolved via talks if possible.

Mr Seibert said Mrs Merkel invited the Chinese government to visit Berlin for official government consultations, and Mr Xi also extended an invitation for Mrs Merkel to visit China. REUTERS