Merkel to warn G20 on trade protectionism

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Tuesday ahead of this week's G20 meeting in Seoul that trade protectionism poses the greatest threat to global economic recovery.

Merkel to warn G20 on trade protectionism
Photo: DPA

“The greatest danger that threatens us is protectionism, and we are still not taking enough steps to ensure genuinely free trade,” Merkel told the Financial Times newspaper.

The chancellor, who will meet up with world leaders in South Korea on Thursday, called for a new effort to complete the Doha development round of trade liberalisation measures.

“There is something we can do that does not cost us much, and does not create any new debts, and that is to finish the Doha round,” she said.

“We have been talking about it for many years, but there is another chance in 2011 to complete it at last.”

The German leader broached the subject of China’s manipulated currency, saying that the blossoming superpower needed to be persuaded using “facts and benchmarks” rather than bullied into allowing its currency, the renminbi, to appreciate.

With Sino-US relations strained over one another’s monetary policies, Merkel said she would be prepared to act as peacemaker, adding: “I do not think it sensible to have a political argument.”

Merkel brushed off US suggestions that nations should adhere to targets for maximum levels of balance of payments surpluses and deficits, describing it as “narrowly conceived.”

Germany has come in for criticism over its large trade surplus, which some other countries say causes imbalances and distortions in international commerce.

“I don’t think much of quantified balance of payments targets,” she said. “It is not just a question of exchange rates but also a question of competitiveness.”


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‘We agree to disagree’: Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

By lunchtime on Friday, talks between the Scandinavian airline SAS and unions representing striking pilots were still stuck on "difficult issues".

'We agree to disagree': Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

“We agree that we disagree,” Roger Klokset, from the Norwegian pilots’ union, said at lunchtime outside the headquarters of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in Stockholm, where talks are taking place. “We are still working to find a solution, and so long as there is still some point in continuing negotiations, we will do that.” 

Mats Ruland, a mediator for the Norwegian government, said that there were “still several difficult issues which need to be solved”. 

At 1pm on Friday, the two sides took a short break from the talks for lunch, after starting at 9am. On Thursday, they negotiated for 15 hours, breaking off at 1am on Friday morning. 

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on the SAS plane strike?

Marianne Hernæs, SAS’s negotiator on Friday told journalists she was tired after sitting at the negotiating table long into the night. 

“We need to find a model where we can meet in the middle and which can ensure that we pull in the income that we are dependent on,” she said. 

Klokset said that there was “a good atmosphere” in the talks, and that the unions were sticking together to represent their members.

“I think we’ve been extremely flexible so far. It’s ‘out of this world’,’ said Henrik Thyregod, with the Danish pilots’ union. 

“This could have been solved back in December if SAS had not made unreasonable demands on the pilots,” Klokset added. 

The strike, which is now in its 12th day, has cost SAS up to 130m kronor a day, with 2,550 flights cancelled by Thursday, affecting 270,000 passengers.