Merkel Wants Government and Industry to Take on Asia Together

(Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said European political and business leaders should work more closely together to counter the economic challenge from Asia, the latest sign of support for more government intervention to promote home-grown industrial champions.

Merkel on Tuesday also took a swipe at U.S. President Donald Trump over his trade policies, arguing that the world needs “multilateral solutions,” rather than new or higher tariffs, to cope with “tectonic shifts in the global order.”

Merkel said in a speech to an Asia-Pacific forum in Berlin that she sometimes “despaired” when trying to explain trade flows to Trump, who is infuriated by the U.S. trade deficit with Germany. The American president is poised to decide whether to impose tariffs on vehicles manufactured by German carmakers including Volkswagen AG and Daimler AG.

“Incidentally, our trade surpluses are in goods, and services aren’t included at all,” Merkel said. “So we must urgently think about the kind of statistics with which we make international comparisons.”

Asian nations have been gaining an advantage in recent years due to long-term planning that goes beyond one legislative period and to a “completely different kind of cooperation between politics and industry,” Merkel told business leaders, including Siemens AG Chief Executive Officer Joe Kaeser.

“I suspect we will not be able to ignore these developments and political realities completely but will also have to work out the same kind of strategic planning together,” she said.

Merkel and her allies in Germany and beyond have recently stepped up their campaign to overhaul European Union antitrust rules so that companies in the region can better compete with global giants, particularly in the U.S. and China. Merkel said she will discuss how to take forward a “European industrial strategy” with French President Emmanuel Macron at a meeting in Paris on Wednesday.

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