German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the world cannot be forced to choose between two big blocs, with the Chinese on one side and the Americans on the other. “I am against saying ‘here is the USA and there is China’, and countries have to come together around one or the other,” she said on Tuesday (26). ‘a conference at the World Economic Forum – which in 2021 is happening. online. .
Responding to a question on the defense of multilateralism asked by Chinese leader Xi Jinping the day before, she said she agreed with this point of view. “But there is one question on which we do not quite agree: how to deal with different social models. When does the interference start and end? When do you stand up for basic, indivisible values?”
In response to the question posed by the founder and CEO of the Forum, Klaus Schwab, she said that it is essential to define the limits within which it is possible to respect the different economic and social systems. “China is committed to abiding by international treaties and we must resolve interpretative disputes once and for all,” he said.
At several other points in her opening speech, Merkel balanced Chinese and American interests. She called for more transparency on practices such as state subsidies, with clear reference to Beijing. “We need to know to what extent trade is still conducted according to global rules or whether it is being promoted by unacceptable practices.”
This is one of the main criticisms of the United States of a multilateral entity, the WTO (World Trade Organization). For the two previous administrations of the American government, and for several specialists in international trade, the organization needs to be reformed to be able to face the system of China, which, since its entry to the WTO, has become a power. commercial.
Without speaking directly to the United States, Merkel warned that it was necessary to unblock the activities of the agency – that it is without a director general and with its appeals body paralyzed by the American blockades, intensified under the Donald Trump administration.
The Chancellor also took advantage of her conference to ask the new American president, Joe Biden, to support the taxation of the giants of the technology developed by the OECD (a group of 38 countries among the richest in the world) and to fight against monopolies.
Attempts by the European Union and the bloc countries to tax large American companies and limit their market power have been a major cause of friction with the government of former President Donald Trump.
France even passed a tax on so-called big tech, but backed down after Trump threatened to impose high tariffs on French luxury goods.
Sitting in front of the German and European flags, Merkel said she hoped the new US administration would uphold “the importance of international competition laws, to prevent the formation of global monopolies.”
Still in balance between the “two blocks”, the German Prime Minister defended the investment agreement signed between the European Union and China, on the penultimate day of her mandate with the rotating president of the Council of the ‘EU.
The text was one of the German chancellor’s priorities, and, to sign it, she took advantage of the window of transition to the American presidency, in which Biden had already been elected, but not yet installed.
The agreement contradicts the Americans and, according to diplomats, would have erected a barrier precisely for the participation of the United States in digital taxation and the privacy policies defended by the Europeans.
The German stressed that the agreement signed with China could bring more transparency on state subsidies, more predictability in access to technologies and respect for labor rules, all important issues in politics. of Biden to the Asian giant.
In the conference, Merkel defended a “social market” model: “It is necessary to find the right balance between government actions and individual rights. We must be able to stop concentration when it creates very powerful companies and to think globally, beyond our own country ”.
According to the Chancellor, this must be done through state regulation, “because no company will do it alone”, but without allowing the state to develop too much to stifle innovation and private initiative. .
3 lessons from the pandemic
According to Merkel’s assessment, the pandemic has brought three major lessons. The first was to clarify how the world is connected and interdependent, which shows that trying to isolate yourself within your own borders is not a good solution. The second was to highlight the vulnerability of human beings to nature and the urgency to adopt measures to protect the climate and biodiversity.
Finally, the Chancellor said that disasters such as a pandemic serve to highlight bottlenecks and weaknesses that need to be addressed. In the case of Germany, two of the main Achilles heels highlighted by her were bureaucracy, which delayed many processes, and the lack of a preventive health system. “We have good health care at the individual level, but we need to strengthen it at the community level,” she said.
With Germany criticized by neighboring countries for using its economic might to ensure better access to vaccines and the internal public for taking too long to administer the injections, Merkel called for a more equitable global distribution of vaccines that would affect also the poorest countries.
“The question of who gets the shots first will create a new narrative. If those most in need receive such urgent aid, they will remember it for a lot longer than if it was aid in better times, ”Merkel said.