Merkel Huddles With Macron to Coordinate Trade Pitch to Trump

(Bloomberg) -- Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel are drawing up a common message on global trade ahead of trips to Washington next week.

The French president and the German chancellor will both visit the White House as they try to persuade President Donald Trump not to upend the World Trade Organization’s rules-based trading system. The U.S. is due to decide by May 1 whether it will maintain a European Union exemption on steel and aluminum tariffs.

Merkel Huddles With Macron to Coordinate Trade Pitch to Trump

“We are both attached to respect for the multilateral framework of WTO rules,” Macron said Thursday in Berlin before a meeting with the chancellor. “We will argue for a return to the norm and argue for the justification of exemptions for the EU.”

The tag-team diplomacy is aimed at defusing transatlantic tensions prompted by Trump’s America-first approach on global trade. Europe’s two most powerful leaders will also seek to salvage the international agreement aimed at halting Iran’s nuclear program, which Trump has threatened to tear up.

“Above all it will be about making clear that the transatlantic partnership is important to us, even when there are differences of opinion,” Merkel said.

The two leaders were less closely aligned on Macron’s ambitions for further integration of the EU and the single-currency area. Merkel signaled that a key element in the euro-area plan -- a common backstop for euro-zone depositors -- would have to wait until “the more distant future.”

Germany Holds Back

Merkel’s comments echoed those of hardliners from her Christian Democratic-led bloc who have sought to put the brakes on Macron’s ambitions. Merkel and Macron want a harmonized position before an EU summit in June and the chancellor said she agreed that the single currency “isn’t yet crisis resistant.”

The two met at the building site of the reconstructed Berlin Palace, a replica of the royal seat of Prussian power that was razed by the East German government in 1950. It’s slated for completion next year.

Setting out on her fourth term in office, the German chancellor wanted to showcase the special bond she has with France’s youngest-ever president. At their first meeting after his election last May, Merkel welcomed him to Berlin with a quote from German writer Hermann Hesse, “a magic dwells in each beginning.”

Asked about that comment, Merkel alluded to the six months of coalition negotiations she needed before she could form a new government and tackle the issue of EU reform.

“We’ve preserved that magic a bit,” Merkel said. “A few months have passed, but now it’s back again.”

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