France Says West Should Engage With China on Trade, Not Provoke

(Bloomberg) -- French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said western leaders should try to avoid antagonizing China in conversations about the imbalances in global trade.

“The right solution is not to engage in any kind of war against China, the right solution is to engage China,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg Television Friday. “We want China to abide by their international commitments, we want China to help us build a new multilateral approach as far as trade is concerned.”

As Donald Trump tries to redress perceived unfairness in global trading relationships, the European Union is seeking a permanent exemption from his new metals levies and has threatened tit-for-tat measures should it not be granted. The issue will be at the top of the agenda when French President Emmanuel Macron meets the U.S. leader next week.

“What we want is a full and permanent exemption for the EU,” Le Maire said in Washington, where he is attending the International Monetary Fund’s spring meetings. “We are allies, the U.S. and France, the U.S. and European countries, and we cannot accept that between allies there are such tariffs coming on steel and aluminum.”

Macron was in Berlin yesterday to coordinate his lobbying effort with Chancellor Angela Merkel who will also visit the White House next week.

“We all have an interest in rules-based, free global trade and want to avoid trade escalations,” German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said in another television interview from the IMF meeting.

The risk of a protectionist spiral has cast a shadow over the world economy’s robust growth with recent data in the euro area suggesting its strongest expansion in a decade may be starting to ebb.

“Notwithstanding the latest economic indicators, which suggest that the growth cycle may have peaked, the growth momentum is expected to continue,” European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said on Friday. “Preserving free and open trade that is underpinned by multilateral cooperation is crucial to foster a favorable global economic environment.”

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